Northamptonshire cabinet member defends £75,000 digital cycle counters as 'eligible use' of emergency travel fund

"The installation of the two digital counters and displays is eligible expenditure via the Emergency Active Travel Fund"

Monday, 10th August 2020, 4:58 pm
Updated Monday, 10th August 2020, 5:04 pm
Cllr Smithers oversaw the project to spend 75,000 of Government funding on digital cycle counters.

A cabinet member has stood by a £75,000 project to build digital cycle counters on two roads in Northamptonshire using an emergency government grant.

in June, the local authority was handed a £351,000 grant from the Government's Emergency Active Travel Fund to spend on "quick win" projects to make social distancing easier, such as widening footpaths and creating pop-up cycle paths.

However, the council has now shown that out of the £173,000 spent to date, £75,000 of the funding has been used on a scheme to add digital cycle counters to Kettering Road and Harlestone Road in Northampton.

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The original letter by the DfT in May 2020 announcing the scheme stated: "Anything that does not meaningfully alter the status quo on the roads will not be funded."

The spending was criticised by opposition parties and cycle groups, who although not opposed to the counters questioned how it was eligible under the grant's rules.

The Chronicle & Echo asked for the council to show that the digital counters were outlined in the original plan put to the Government and to explain how the counters changed the status quo of their roads.

Now, councillor Jason Smithers, county council cabinet member for Highways - who oversees the funding's use - says the spending is eligible because it will help them secure more money in the future.

He said in a statement: “The installation of the two digital counters and displays is eligible expenditure via the Emergency Active Travel Fund.

“The counters have an important role as they enable us to capture live data on cycling and track this over time. Through this we can understand how well the network is being used and evaluate the impact of measures. This is also important as it is a requirement to undertake monitoring and evaluation. Moreover, this information should support our case for future funding bids.

“The counters are also a visible way of showing the popularity of cycling both in terms of the physical displays, which are visible to passing travel, and sharing trip information via social media and other channels. The two counters are being installed on routes which are popular for cycling, but also have scope for levels to increase significantly.”

Steve Miller of the Northants Green party said in a previous statement: "I think its difficult to argue that digital counters alter the status quo on the roads."