Monday 2 August 2021

Ealing's Transport Funding Stopped

Ealing Council has had part of its transport funding stopped because of its lack of commitment to active travel. On Friday 30 July, Andrew Gilligan, a special advisor to the prime minister, and an observer member on the board of Transport for London tweeted: "The London councils where funding has been stopped, pending further discussion, are Ealing, Harrow, Hillingdon, K&C, Redbridge, Sutton, and Wandsworth."  

The exact reason for pulling the funding isn't clear. We asked Ealing Council and TfL for an explanation. Ealing Council said: “We have trialled nine LTNs over the last year and have removed one scheme, after 9 months, and that was because the part closure of a boundary road by a neighbouring borough made the scheme unworkable. We have redesigned part of it and hope it will be supported by local people. Any decisions about further schemes will be made following trial periods of almost 12 months. These have now been concluded, allowing us to take into account a wide range of data and feedback, including how the schemes have affected traffic patterns and levels of local support."

TfL said “We are focusing available funding on ensuring that boroughs can continue temporary projects and those already under construction. As a result, more funding has so far been allocated to those boroughs who are progressing this type of project. We have written to other boroughs where we need further discussions around specifics of their funding.” 

The loss of funding isn't a surprise. When the government announced its plans for low-traffic neighbourhoods back in 2020, it warned councils that it could "ask for funds to be returned for any which have not been completed as promised".1 Last week, the government reiterated that threat, saying: "We will reduce funding to councils which do not take active travel seriously, particularly in urban areas. This includes councils which remove schemes prematurely or without proper evidence."2  

Ealing's methods of consulting the public are also being questioned.  The government insists that "any proposal to remove a contested scheme should involve a process that genuinely reflects local opinion – typically professional, representative polling." Professional opinion polls have repeatedly found that LTNs are popular with the general public, but Ealing's two consultations used a different approach. The first, using an online site called Commonplace, enabled people to submit as many comments as they liked. The second, using another online site, Survey Monkey, could be easily manipulated as it didn't ask for names, just addresses. Legally, there is no requirement for the council to treat a consultation like a referendum; safety and other factors must also be considered. Earlier this year, Hounslow council closed Swyncombe Avenue to east-bound motor traffic after 97 responses in favour and 435 against.

Swyncombe Avenue

Ealing Council's statement continued: “We are committed to being open, transparent and inclusive as a council. That means being honest about what works and what does not. This is why we are giving local people control over change in their neighbourhoods through a consultation on the future of LTNs in the borough.
“We know that people in Ealing want a cleaner, greener borough with less congestion – and our neighbourhoods are not designed to cope with the high levels of traffic we see on local streets. We are supporting our residents to choose active travel options, like walking or cycling, instead of making short journeys by car.” 
It's not known what Ealing Council needs to do to restart the flow of money. TfL says that discussions are ongoing.