George Osborne’s promise at the end of last year to stick with the government’s £300 million commitment to cycling will have been a huge relief to training managers, safety campaigners and environmentalists across the UK. But how should local authority road safety officers and transport managers view the news?
Well, the Chancellor’s Spending Review pledge doesn’t represent a windfall because there’s no new money on top. Neither is it the policy back-pedal that some feared. Instead, it buys ‘breathing space’ for the cycle training sector … time that must be used wisely.
Concerns over cuts to funding should be viewed as a warning shot across the back wheels. Even though funding may be generally secure for now, who knows when cuts may come – or when pressures from other services could eat into cycle training budgets at local authorities? In that scenario, pitching for funding could become intense as competition for cash gets tougher and the qualifications more stringent.
As any ambitious cyclist knows, the key to success (and avoiding pain later) is to get into training. And – with future budgets in mind – that’s also true for anyone at a local authority involved in delivering cycle training.
Now’s the time to sharpen up
The best response from council cycle training teams is to use early 2016 to strengthen their programmes by embedding industry best practice. As part of this, they should sharpen their ability to pitch for funds, whenever any opportunity arises. This is a priority.
So how can council teams build a stronger business case – turning an ‘average’ funding application into a compelling one? Here are a set of actions that can make the difference.
Five ways to win more funding
#1 Build your submission with rock-solid data
Qualitative data is helpful but the economics tend to get decided on numbers. It’s important you’ve kept records of previous sessions – and can prove you did exactly what was asked, such as the numbers trained and how you delivered excellent value for money at your local authority. Also show that, going forward, your whole strategy is based on hard data and key performance indicators, such as low drop-out levels, costs staying within budget and successful outcomes.
#2 Demonstrate that demand for cycle training is growing
If the public demands more training, then decision-makers will often be swayed. Public surveys are influential – like this one from Manchester which reports on most people’s wish that cycling spending would quadruple. At a simpler level, can you show how quickly your training places are filled in your borough? Do you have any feedback results showing customer satisfaction and how many trainees are willing to recommend your sessions to their friends? Are there ways you can prove demand for what you want to offer?
#3 Show your training is ‘inclusive’, reaching every demographic
Again, data helps here – if you can show that your local authority training attracts people from every gender, age range and background. You can also demonstrate your plans for widening the appeal of training, perhaps showing flexibility and innovation in terms of times, locations and themed activities.
#4 Have your submissions on stand-by
Don’t simply work towards the big opportunities. Have projects and submissions lined up already in case internal funds become available suddenly – for example, at the end of the financial year where under-spends can be addressed.
#5 Think long term
Having a long-term strategy is vital to avoid a ‘boom and bust’ approach to cycle training. Relationships with funding organisations and a clear understanding of how you’re meeting underlying changes in demand will give you a greater sense of purpose and authority. You want your expertise, confidence and sense of mission to shine through in your submissions.
Funding is never guaranteed but these five tactics will help, especially if your council has a knowledgeable cycle training partner at your side. The best partners will already have the processes in place to capture and use data effectively – and even help you to craft your funding submissions, based on their industry-wide experience of ‘what works’.
Get further help – and download the free eBook today
If you work for a local authority, then it’s worth downloading your free copy of the e-book Cycle training: Switching into top gear. Funding is one of many areas touched upon in the guide, which includes a checklist as to whether you’re following best practice in every area of cycle training. It’s ideal if you want to use today’s ‘breathing space’ to improve everything you do, so you’re ready for anything.