Today, 30 November 2017, Transport for London, announced that seven London boroughs had been successful in their initial bids for ‘Liveable Neighbourhood’ funding in 2018/2019. The details are provided in Boroughs secure ‘Liveable Neighbourhood’ funding (TfL, 30 November 2017). Our congratulations go to Ealing, Greenwich, Hackney, Haringey, Havering, Lewisham and Waltham Forest, each of which will initially receive £1.25m to help them deliver their proposals further. The potential total funding that they may subsequently go on to receive, including non-Liveable Neighbourhoods sources, amounts to between £2m and £10m per borough.
Today’s announcement reported that TfL had received a total of 28 bids from 21 boroughs for Liveable Neighbourhoods feasibility funding in 2018/19. In order to qualify for funding in 2018, the bids had had to be submitted by 20 October 2017. (The Liveable Neighbourhoods programme had been announced almost a year ago to the day, as part of the press release to London’s Cycling Budget to 2020/21 in early December 2016).
What about Sutton though? Did the borough bid, but was not selected this time? Or was a bid not submitted? Thanks to a Freedom of Information request made to TfL by Roger Stocker (the day after the deadline for bid submissions), we have the answer. Twenty-one boroughs, plus the City of London, are listed as having made a bid. Sutton is not included on the list.
So the next obvious question is why didn’t Sutton put in a bid for the new Liveable Neighbourhood funding? Although, for the foreseeable future, boroughs will be able to submit a bid at any time (noting that submissions for each financial year close in the autumn of the preceding year), why was this first opportunity missed? After all, this is all about relatively large sums in comparison to the annual LIP funding. Normally, the expectation would be for everyone to put their hands up for this sort of cash. Sutton did so in 2013 when the mini-Holland programme was announced (Sutton’s bid for mini-Holland funding is available on our Publications page (July 2013)).
For the moment, we can only speculate about this (noting that an official response from Sutton Council was subsequently provided in January 2018). My own view, and it may be totally wrong of course, is that perhaps Sutton Council just felt it did not have the resources to put together a bid (although, it could be thought that the new shared services with Kingston may have helped in this regard). Set this against a background of low expectation of being successful anyway, in part driven by criticism (much of it from us) for highlighting essentially non-delivery to date (from shared footways to lost opportunities at new developments) and, worse still, lack of vision for the future. Then throw in the mix the slow realisation that only those boroughs able and willing to deliver will receive any cash (in line with the new Mayor’s Transport Strategy), and the odds start to stack up against you. (Or is that just wishful thinking?)
Certain challenges, such as high car-ownership in the borough linked to making the case for cycling more difficult, may have come in to play too. It’s all too difficult, so why bother? Although, of course, making the case is something that should have started a while back, as we noted in our response to the draft Cycling Strategy in September 2015). Making the case is not costly though (although it does require political will). We have fallen short on this in Sutton. For example, take the now two-year old Cycling Strategy (Publications, November 2015) and the fact that some limited references to it are only just beginning to appear in council documentation at certain Local Committees. Opportunities to promote the strategy, and take forward the conversation, have been lost. Meanwhile, Sutton’s proposed first Quietway, a low-traffic cycle route through Sutton Central and Sutton North wards, has yet to be mentioned at any Sutton Local Committee meeting (although obviously parking is mentioned all the time), despite receiving welcome promotion and public engagement with a Quietways Highways Survey in the summer of 2017.
Then there could be the ‘let’s see how others get on first’ approach. Not a bad idea, and a stance taken by the council on the introduction of 20mph several years ago (why hurry?). But if the focus were to move to outcomes, on what is best for everyone all of the time, rather than remaining on perceived disadvantages to motorists in vehicles, many of which are only being driven for less than 3% of the time, then things could be so much different.
Then, of course the next round of council elections will soon be upon us, with May 2018 just six months away. So perhaps now is simply not the time. Not the time for a borough where seats will be highly contested, and where (as was the case in 2014) many politicians probably either see cycling as anti-motorist or don’t see cycling at all.
These are certainly interesting times. There is the ongoing mini-Holland programme in Enfield, Kingston and Waltham Forest, and the development of Cycle Superhighways (notably at the moment CS9 and CS4). Then there are the future Quietways, and whether they will actually be quiet. Now Liveable Neighbourhoods are to be progressed in seven boroughs.
So although today’s news is clearly disappointing, and brings with it the realisation that we are going to have to wait a little longer to bring the Healthy Streets vibe to Sutton, let us celebrate the fact that elsewhere the conversation is ongoing. The biggest disappointment for us would be if it transpired that the reason for a lack of a bid was just due to a lack of aspiration for Sutton. Let’s hope that that is not the case, and that there is an element of truth in some of the possible reasons outlined here. Mind you, our neighbours in Croydon and Merton did not put in a bid either. So make of that what you will.
Sutton Council’s official response as to why a bid was not submitted in October 2017 was subsequently given by Cllr. Jill Whitehead, Chair of the Environment and Neighbourhood Committee, in January 2018. Read the response in ‘Why didn’t Sutton submit a bid for Liveable Neighbourhoods funding at the first opportunity?‘ (Get Sutton Cycling, 7 January 2018)
Boroughs secure ‘Liveable Neighbourhoods’ funding (TfL press release, 30 November 2017)
First seven Liveable Neighbourhoods announced (Simon Munk, Infrastructure Campaigner at London Cycling Campaign, 30 November 2017).
First winners of ‘Liveable Neighbourhoods’ grants announced (Patrick McDonnell, Transport Xtra, 1 December 2017)
Liveable Neighbourhoods (and what they look like) (Sustrans, 30 November 2017)
Multi-million funding to transform town centres and neighbourhoods (Mayor of London | London Assembly, 27 July 2017)
The boroughs that submitted funding bids to the Liveable Neighbourhoods 2018/19 programme: (with successful boroughs in bold):
Barnet, Bexley, Camden, City of London, Ealing, Greenwich, Hackney, Haringey, Harrow, Havering, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Islington, Kingston, Lambeth, Lewisham, Redbridge, Richmond, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest, Wandsworth
The boroughs that did not submit funding bids to the Liveable Neighbourhoods 2018/19 programme are:
Barking and Dagenham, Brent, Bromley, Croydon, Enfield, Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, Merton, Newham, Sutton, Westminster.
v2: 03.12.2017; v3: 07.12.2017 (added further reading); v4: 12.02.2018 (added link to the official Sutton Council response)