LABOUR council leaders in York have reaffirmed their commitment to ending the ‘blue badge ban’ in the city – despite opposition Lib Dem councillors claiming the move could ‘put the public at risk’.

The council’s ruling Executive voted to overturn the ban at their meeting on October 12.

They agreed that ‘hostile vehicle mitigation measures’ – the anti-terror bollards that have been springing up around the city centre – would continue to operate.

But they decided that blue badge access would be permitted in Blake Street, Lendal, St Helen’s Square, Goodramgate, Church Street, Kings’ Square and Colliergate during pedestrianised hours.

They also voted to consult on developing an anti-terrorism traffic regulation order, however, which would allow police to restrict access to blue badge holders and others during major events.

But Lib Dem opposition leader Nigel Ayre claimed the decision to allow access to the city centre for vehicles carrying blue badge holders flew in the face of updated security advice from the council’s Counter Terrorism Security Advisor.

He says the updated advice should have been made public before the October 12 Executive meeting.

That advice - which by its own admission is little changed from that originally supplied to the council - warns that ‘any further exemptions for vehicles to access the protected area would increase the vulnerability and reduce the effectiveness of the hostile vehicle mitigation measures in respect of a terrorist attack involving the use of a vehicle, either using an improvised explosive device carried on a vehicle or the use of the vehicle itself as a weapon’.

It continues “Terrorists continue to look at ways of exploiting any weaknesses in a HVM (hostile vehicle measures) scheme and to allow further exemptions for vehicles other than emergency service vehicles would lead to a reduction in the effectiveness of the mitigating measures.”

Cllr Ayre said: “The professional advice is clear that the decision to allow more vehicles into the city centre foot streets is against their professional advice and will put the public at risk.

“As clearly requested by the security experts we now need to see a full assessment of the risks of allowing more vehicles into the city centre and have a series of actions that can be taken to mitigate these risks before the existing restrictions are reversed as well as updated advice as to whether this is acceptable to experts.

“Liberal Democrats have always been clear that when it comes to the risk to life posed by the terrorist threat, we must follow the advice of the Counter Terrorism experts to keep everyone in York safe.”

But Cllr Pete Kilbane, the Labour executive member for transport, reaffirmed the council’s commitment to reversing the ban.

“Risk exists everywhere and Local Authorities manage risk in a proportionate way to allow the public to go about their daily lives without excessive infringement of their civil liberties,” he said.

“We received the same counter-terrorism advice as the old Liberal Democrat administration, considered that and its impact on locking Blue Badge holders out of the city centre, and reached a different conclusion.

“We have made a legally valid decision that balances citizens rights and which we know from the recent election, has the majority support of York residents.

“It is extremely disappointing that the Liberal Democrats persist with their discriminatory stance on this issue”.