Critics question the way the cycling charity may operate and ‘lobby’, as its senior executives receive a huge rise in salaries.
A cycling charity that received substantial amounts of public funds to implement low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs), has disclosed a substantial increase in its financial assets and executive compensation.
Sustrans, an organisation that has advocated for LTNs for several years, reported having £165 million in “cash or cash equivalents” in its bank accounts for the 2022-2023 financial year.
Additionally, it received grants amassing to £92 million, from both national and local government bodies, according to its latest accounts.
The charity has experienced a significant financial transformation compared to previous years, with £16 million in 2017 and £25 million in 2018.
The increased funding may be attributed to the government’s LTN policy introduced in 2020 during the height of the pandemic, aimed at promoting walking and cycling.
Some critics of the charity claim that Sustrans functions more like a cycling advocacy group and operates with limited transparency and accountability.
It is not subject to democratic processes such as Freedom of Information laws, leaving question marks over its sphere of influence and financial practices.
In a recent development, The Sunday Telegraph reported that Lambeth Council was compelled by the Information Commissioner to release information about a £400,000 payment to Sustrans for LTN initiatives, which the council had initially considered “commercially sensitive.”
Employees ‘Embedded’ Within Councils
It is claimed by Sustrans that some of their employees are “embedded” within local councils, working closely with local authority transport departments to offer guidance on the development of cycling infrastructure.
While LTNs are designed to reduce car dependence and traffic, opponents contend that they may simply transfer congestion and pollution to busier roads, often affecting communities with lower income levels.
Sustrans’ financial reports also reveal a notable increase in executive compensation, with 20 staff members earning between £60,000 and £140,000. The charity’s CEO, Xavier Brice, receives a salary ranging from £130,000 to £140,000, surpassing the salary of Graham Stuart, the minister for climate change and net zero, by up to £25,000.
In the previous year, only 11 employees earned more than £60,000, and Mr. Brice received a salary of £120,000-£130,000. In 2018, his salary was £110,000-£120,000, with only three executives earning between £60,000 and £70,000. Sustrans employs a total of 779 staff, resulting in a total annual salary expenditure of £26 million.
A spokesperson for the pressure group Social and Environmental Justice, who are opposed to the LTN scheme, told The Telegraph: “We are deeply concerned that Sustrans, essentially a cycling lobby group, continues to rake in millions of pounds of public money to help councils push through schemes such as unjust, discriminatory LTNs.
“We look forward to the upcoming independent review into LTNs recently announced by the Government.”
‘Charities Lobby For Contentious Policies’
Speaking to The Telegraph, Joe Ventre, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance: “Brits wonder why their money is funding controversial campaigns. Some charities lobby for contentious policies while receiving taxpayers’ money, all while being exempt from many forms of accountability.
“Government should focus funds on taxpayers’ priorities.”
Howard Cox, the founder of FairFuel UK and Reform UK’s London mayoral candidate, expressed strong discontent with the allocation of “hard-earned” funds from UK drivers, for what he perceives as a worsening of already heavily taxed road usage.
Speaking to The Epoch Times by text, Mr. Cox criticised politicians whom he views as “lacking understanding” for being influenced by “well-financed” charities, which advocate for the phasing out of diesel and petrol vehicles.
Mr. Cox also highlighted a perceived bias in the negative portrayal of fossil-fuelled vehicles and the glorification of slower, more natural methods of transport.
He said: “The deliberate positioning of fossil-fuelled vehicles as the devil, whilst cycling and walking is personified as walking on water, is getting more prevalent.
“And guess what; it’s the hard-pressed taxpayer that pays for this propaganda.”
A spokesperson for Sustrans said: “As governments, local authorities and organisations across the UK repeatedly appoint Sustrans to roles in design, consultation and review of a wide variety of schemes to make walking and cycling easier and safer, our expertise and value for money is made clear.”
He spoke further on how the charity’s staff engage with communities in delivering “innovative behaviour change programmes,” so “people can thrive.”
Speaking to relationships built with councils over “40 years,” he added: “To achieve our mission, our income goes towards costs for delivering our amazing work, including supporting organisational costs. This naturally contributes towards the salaries of the hardworking colleagues within our charity, guided by the market equivalent to recognise their expertise.”