EXCLUSIVE: £1,086,625 Cost of York Lendal Bridge Refunds
1:27pm 6th May 2014
(Updated 4:37pm 10th May 2014)
The cost of refunding Lendal Bridge fines to drivers who were caught out could land York Council with a bill of £1,086,625.
The figure has been revealed in a draft report into the controversial trial obtained by Minster FM, which was written before a government appointed judge ruled that the council could not use ANPR cameras to enforce the trial. The council is currently appealing that decision and says the legal advice it has had shows it was running a scheme which was lawful.
RISK OF ADJUDICATOR GOING AGAINST COUNCIL "SMALL"
But before the government's Traffic Adjudicator went against the council, it estimated that the risk of a driver winning an appeal against the fine was "small". It also estimates that the loss of income to the end of December would be £844,000. If the council did refund the fines by cheque, it would have to pay a £5 administration fee for each of the 48,525 fines, which would cost the authority £242,625. Bringing the total bill to an estimated £1,086,625. But the actual costs would be even higher due to the costs of the time to council workers in issuing refunds.
The paragraph which refers to the adjudicator is copied below:
£700,000 FINE CASH COULD PAY FOR "LENDAL 2" OPTION
In the draft report, the council outlines where it believes the £700,000 surplus from fines could be spent, with an option for a SECOND Lendal Bridge style project.
Officials recommend the money is used for paying for the increasing costs of the Lendal Bridge trial, with extra money spent on advertising and police support which was not budgeted for. It is then recommended the cash is used for:
- Funding Lendal 1 costs and post-completion review
- Key junctions for loops/microwave vehicle detection/resurfacing. Road surface repairs to allow for traffic signal detector equipment to be reinstated.
- Upgrading VMS (Variable Message Signs) to ensure signs are operational and provide car journey into city information and possible car parking data.
- The ongoing support required for 16-18yr YORZONE Card.
- City centre shutte bus city centre and Derwenthorpe loop using 2 electric and 1 diesel bus
However, another option which is proposed by officials is for a "Lendal 2 scheme in due course, if agreed". Minster FM has asked York Council for more information on this proposal and if it refers to Ouse Bridge.
LOCAL ELECTIONS "RISK" OF EXTENDING TRIAL
The report then outlines four options for councillors to decide on; re-opening the bridge to all traffic, make the restrictions permanent and altering or extending the experiment with new longer restricted hours.
However, the option of running a new six month trial based on a new longer restriction says that there would be risks as it "would be close to local elections". The draft report also said that making the trial permanent between 10.30am and 5pm while looking at a new time would mean "public perception would be that they had not been listened to and the Order had been confirmed regardless of existing traffic issues".
If the trial had been made permanent the draft report states that until signs had been improved and SatNavs altered "there would continue to be a considerable number of PCNs issued."
RISKS TO BUS INTERCHANGE PLANS
The draft report says that removing the Lendal Bridge restrictions, as the council did last month, would lead to traffic levels returning to pre-trial levels and more delays in the long term.
It also says plans to change Exhibition Square and Duncombe Place could be limited, harming the ability to bring more people to York city centre. In particular, the draft report says plans for a bus interchange at the rail station could be "curtailed".
Using transport projections based on controversial plans to build 22,000 new homes in York under the city's proposed Local Plan. The draft report says it would be difficult to manage the projected increase in traffic. While the report states improving the Outer Ring Road and James Street link road would help, the document warns York cannot "build our way out" of increased traffic growth.
CONSERVATIVES ACCUSE LABOUR OF "PANIC"
Opposition Conservatives have accused the Labour group of "panic"over Lendal Bridge. The group's leader Chris Steward said:
"Labour's backbench rebellion over fears that the Lendal Bridge trial will cost them next year's election puts paid to Cllr. Alexander's claims that Labour are the party of competence and commitment."
"This trial was handled ineptly by Labour from beginning to its now very sorry end. Labour did not consult widely enough with residents prior to the trial, they never took onboard legitimate criticism over signage and other strategic matters, they whitewashed unconvincing statistics on the trial's efficacy and then finally ignored their own officers' recommendations on the grounds of political expediency."
"Contrast this with the Conservative position: we were prepared to see the trial, quickly took on board signage and other problems and fed these back to the council, and then took a public stand last autumn that the trial should be immediately discontinued after it became clear the pain wasn't worth the gain."
"Cllr Alexander loves to crow about his devotion to principles, but this is true only until the going gets tough. Labour didn't vote to open the bridge because they thought it was the right thing to do, they did it because they're running scared and that is no way to run a council."
You can read the Lendal Bridge Draft Report (pdf) and the actual official report here, which will be debated the the council's cabinet later.
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