December 7 2013 Latest news:
by Imogen Blake
Thursday, August 29, 2013
Camden councillors are claiming more money in cycling expenses than for all other travel costs through an allowance scheme praised for getting more local politicians on their bikes.
Councillors can claim up to £180 a year of taxpayers’ money for cycling to and from meetings at the town hall in Judd Street, King’s Cross, and on official duties across the borough as part of the pedal cycle allowance.
The council denies that the allowance is just an incentive to persuade members to cycle, saying it covers the hidden costs of riding regularly.
Only seven councillors, of various parties, claimed the allowance in 2010-2011 according to the latest figures.
But the total claimed for cycling, £773.48, was £120 more than was claimed for all other travel and subsistence costs, such as food bought before or after early and late meetings.
The council said the allowance covered having bikes serviced twice a year, which costs between £50 and £60, replacing brake pads and buying a helmet, waterproofs and warm clothing for the winter, among other costs.
A council spokesman said: “This allowance is not simply there to reward members for cycling. it’s there to compensate members for the costs associated with cycling on a regular basis.
“The benefits of using cycles at work mean that members can get around the borough quicker and in a more environmentally friendly way.”
Liberal Democrat Cllr Paul Braithwaite, who claimed the full £180 allowance in 2010-2011, said he was totally “unapologetic” and that it is a “sensible measure”.
Fellow Lib Dem Cllr Chris Naylor, who claimed £150 in 2010-2011, added that there were many costs linked to cycling, such as expensive services, tyre replacements and insurance.
He said: “Sadly London streets, even Camden ones, are often not very cycle friendly and the bike takes a beating.
“It needs new tyres and servicing much more often than if I just used it for cycling at weekends.
“I wouldn’t expect the council to pay clothing costs but, of course, as well as waterproofs you need good shoes.”
Green Party Cllr Maya de Souza and Labour cabinet member for finance Cllr Theo Blackwell both claimed the cycling allowance in 2010-2011, though Cllr Blackwell has stopped doing so.
But Conservative Cllr Jonny Bucknell, known as a committed cyclist, said he “could not envisage” spending £180 a year on his bike.
“I think the public would look at something like £50 or £60 and think that’s a more modest sum, but maybe people who have an expensive bike do spend £180 a year on it. But when the country is on the brink of £2.3billion of debt, anything is a lot.”