It is unusual but also very encouraging to see the Lib Dem group put out a statement saying they got it wrong regarding the Active Travel Fund 3 bid. The first step in fixing a problem is admitting you have a problem and the council should be applauded for the statement they have made.
Failure is part of the process
For anyone following the development of Active Travel England, both Chris Boardman and Brian Deegan, as explained in this All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group Webinar, recognise that councils will fail to deliver to the high and exacting standards of the Active Travel Fund BUT they are there to help, train, and support councils to do better and to succeed in delivering first class schemes with around £1.6Bn to be spent in Tranche 4 and 5.
With Active Travel Fund Tranche 4 bids likely due by end of August and Tranche 5 bids to follow shortly after, I really hope that the council can look through the years of various strategy documents and start truly engaging with all councillors and communities across Bath AND North East Somerset and think *REALLY* big. Tranche 2 & 3 allocations only came to £400m ish. Tranche 4 & 5 will need to consume £1,600m in funds. Active Travel England will be desperate for multiple big bold schemes.
My personal opinion on this would be for the council to set up a cross party Transport advisory panel to enable collaboration across the whole political spectrum on developing future schemes. Input into this panel should be sought from the Community Area Forums and the new Journey to Net Zero Transport Forum. Critically this panel would continue its work across election cycles.
Leaving a Legacy
The council has honestly and transparently admitted they messed up. With Active Travel Fund Tranche 4 bids due in less than 10 weeks time there is very little time for the blame game when millions is at stake. We can leave our children and grand children an amazing legacy. We can transform the way people, particularly children, are enabled to walk/wheel and cycle around Bath and North East Somerset. BUT we can only do this if councillors work together and right now the mechanisms for that doesn’t truly exist within the council.
(Hint other councils are shifting transport to a committee system as it is simply too big a task for one or two people while maintaining adversarial politics. “Vote for us and we will rip out what they just did!”)