AN attempt by opposition councillors to force York's controversial Lendal Bridge traffic trial to be abandoned has been blocked.
City of York Council's Liberal Democrat group tabled a motion at last night's meeting of the full authority calling for the experiment - which has seen private vehicles banned from the bridge between 10.30am and 5pm every day since the end of last August - to end immediately and for the ruling Labour group to admit it had been "botched".
However, amid confusion at the end of the meeting, Labour councillor Sandy Fraser used a council 'standing order' to defer the motion to a meeting of the council's cabinet in May, when an assessment of the trial - which ended in February, but with the restrictions being kept in force until a decision is made on whether to continue it - will be discussed. More than 53,000 motorists had been issued with £60 penalty charge notices by the end of the official trial period.
The move meant there was no debate or vote on the motion last night, with the Lib Dems today accusing Labour of using an "obscure procedural order to stifle public debate" for six more weeks. Coun Keith Aspden, the group's leader, said: "We came to the meeting to have an open, cross-party debate, but what we got was an attack on local democracy.
"Rather than tackle the issue, Labour ducked it. This means another six weeks of fines, uncertainty for local businesses and increased traffic congestion for residents across the city. We still don't know whether Labour want to reopen Lendal Bridge.
"After ducking the issue last night, I would challenge council leader James Alexander to actually show some leadership and state what his position is. For the good of York, the dithering and delay has to stop."
The Lib Dems said the deferment of their motion to the May 6 cabinet meeting meant there would be no formal cross-party debate or vote on the trial.
Coun Fraser told last night's meeting the Lib Dem motion was "clearly premature", saying: "The data relating to the Lendal Bridge trial is still being collated - all information is not yet available.
"The trial has clearly been controversial and resulted in mixed views. It deserves proper consideration and therefore requires the full facts to be available."
Coun Dave Merrett, cabinet member for transport, planning and sustainability, said today: "The Lendal Bridge motion was due to be debated last night but, as one of the last items on the agenda, time ran out before we were able to debate it - debate would have taken place were this not the case.
"Referral to cabinet is appropriate in this instance as that is constitutionally where the final decision on the trial must be taken, something Coun Aspden is well aware of. All political parties will be able to make their views known at this meeting and I very much hope they will."
Coun Merrett said the council was "open-minded" about what happens with the trial until all evidence, including responses from a consultation with businesses and an independent review by the Institute of Transport Studies, is available. He said this would allow an "informed decision" in May, and claimed opposition parties were "uninterested in what the facts will tell them."