Lendal Bridge closure inquiry opposed
SENIOR Labour councillors have opposed calls for an inquiry into the Lendal Bridge controversy.
Opposition Liberal Democrat councillors had argued that a watchdog committee should look into the trial, but council leader James Alexander and Cllr Dave Merrett, who was the cabinet member responsible for the trial, objected.
Their actions have led to claims the party is refusing to learn lessons from the fiasco and is standing in the way of democratic accountability, but Labour said a separate transport commission it was creating would look at the issue and look at ways of tackling congestion.
Lib Dem councillors Ann Reid and Ian Cuthbertson, challenged council leader James Alexander over a scruitny review at last month’s cabinet meeting, and Cllr Reid and Lib Dem group leader Keith Aspden both requested a scrutiny committee review of the trial.
At the time, Cllr Alexander said a review would be the “right thing to do” if that was what the scrutiny committee members wanted. But a report to go before the committee next week reveals he considers the calls for an investigation by the committee to be “politics not scrutiny”.
The same papers show Cllr Dave Merrett, who was responsible for transport at the time of the sixmonth trial, said a scrutiny committee review would be premature and could prejudice a legal case between the council and the traffic adjudicator, which said the trial was unlawful.
The Lib Dems dubbed Labour’s attempts to block scrutiny “unacceptable”.
Leader Keith Aspden said: “The public deserve answers, particularly those residents and businesses who were directly affected. We need to know how Labour implemented an ‘unlawful’ scheme, why the signage was so poor, why there no real public consultation before the trial, and why in the face of overwhelming opposition Labour pushed on with the closure.
“Only by properly analysing the Lendal Bridge trial and learning the necessary lessons can the council ensure that future attempts at tackling congestion are more successful.”
Conservative leader Chris Steward added: “The bridge closure has been and remains a disaster for York and this is partly because Labour didn’t involve other parties in the decision-making process and as there was no proper scrutiny of the process.
"There was nothing more political in the whole farce than the decision to end the trial which we know was purely due to Labour councillors worried about the coming election.
Given there is to be a supposed cross-party commission on congestion, Labour should be looking at everything they can now to learn lessons, rather than pretending their mistakes didn’t happen.”
The Labour leadership pointed to an independently chaired commission it has pledged to set up after the trial’s failure.
A party spokesman said: “Looking over the information collected from the bridge trial will be the job of the cross-party, independently chaired, Traffic Congestion Commission. All parties have the option to participate in this and do something constructive to tackle what is a major problem for the city that has been here for a long time and isn’t going away.”
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