Councillors have criticised North Yorkshire Council for focusing its transport spending in Harrogate ahead of the rest of the county.
A committee met in Northallerton on Friday and discussed a statement from Harrogate cycling campaigner Gia Margolis which referred to the council’s questionable track record in delivering active travel schemes in the town.
North Yorkshire Council and its predecessor the county council have won millions in funding to deliver schemes in Harrogate like the much-maligned Otley Road cycle path and the Station Gateway.
It’s also currently working on a package of 10 transport improvements around the Pannal Ash and Oatlands area.
But the attention on Harrogate appeared to frustrate some councillors with former Selby council leader Cllr Mark Crane (Conservative, Brayton & Barlow) claiming “we seem to spend all our money in Harrogate” and adding “it would be nice to spend some in Selby for a change”.
In November, North Yorkshire Council hired a full-time member of staff, based in Boroughbridge, to work on active travel projects in the Harrogate district.
However, Cllr Steve Mason (Liberal Democrat, Amotherby & Ampleforth) suggested the hire was to appease local campaigners like Harrogate District Cycle Action, which an officer described at the meeting as being “very proactive locally”.
Cllr Mason said: “Why does Harrogate get a person employed and not elsewhere in the country, is that just pressure from the local community?”
Senior transport officers Melisa Burnham and Alan McVeigh attended the meeting to answer questions from councillors and Ms Burnham said she hopes the new member of staff will eventually be allocated to schemes elsewhere in North Yorkshire.
But she said the team’s Harrogate workload is stretched and officers are “under significant pressure” to deliver active travel schemes.
Mr McVeigh noted that the council’s budget for active travel has been slashed since austerity in 2010, leaving them with little wriggle room to deliver schemes without additional government funding.
However, he said the council had been “on the whole very successful” in winning funding for schemes over recent years.
Cllr Melanie Davis (Labour, Selby West) said there are problems all over the county and blamed government cuts for pitting areas against each other.
She said: “It all comes down to abysmal funding of local government. We’re trying to do central government’s dirty work and the people who end up suffering are the communities.”