Chancellor George Osborne’s first all-Conservative Budget very much focused on his party’s pre-election topics of tax, spending and benefits. But what did it contain for walkers?
In the headlines not much, unless you like walking during the week and shopping on a Sunday, but with budgets it’s normally the detail rather than the headlines which matter.
The new Roads Fund could speed up the building of new roads, but the Chancellor needs to remember that drivers are not the only ones who use roads and improvements should benefit those on foot as well.
Also included are plans for further devolution to cities. We will be monitoring developments to ensure that any new arrangements bring benefits for walking and green-spaces in urban environments.
But one very important detail was missing. The chancellor did not outline how proposed departmental spending cuts are to be rolled out. We will have to wait until the spending review in the autumn to find out how much of the proposed 37 billion of cuts will come from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) or other departments which should also have walkers on their minds, like local government, transport, tourism or health.
Prior to the budget the Ramblers, alongside the National Trust, the Outdoor Industries Association, Sport & Recreation Alliance, British Mountaineering Council and the South West Coast Path Association, asked the Chancellor to reaffirm the Government’s commitment to the England Coast Path.
We have pointed out that halting work or scaling back the project as part of these public spending cuts would be counterproductive, stalling the economic boost it will provide to rural coastal communities and also it would put at risk the opportunities to meet Government targets to improve health, well-being and encourage physical activity.
We will continue to seek reassurances that the coast path will be finished by 2020 as planned and continue to champion this green infrastructure project.
However, it not just large projects such as the England Coast Path which could be in trouble from further cuts. No doubt the impact will also be felt locally. With money passed on by central Government to local authorities also falling Ramblers volunteers will no doubt be feeling the effects on the path network as they step up to the challenge of continuing to monitor, repair and champion the integrity of the path network.
So there may not have been much in the headlines for walkers but problems on the horizon will be watched.
Read the full text of the Chancellor’s speech
Read the full details of the Summer Budget