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York Labour Deny Blocking Lendal Bridge Inquiry

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4:36pm 12th June 2014

Labour councillors in York are denying claims they blocked an inquiry into the council's handling of the Lendal Bridge trial.

A meeting of councillors on the Economic and City Development Overview and Scrutiny Committee saw the idea of a review blocked by a four-three vote. The four Labour councillors on the committee  Anna Semlyen, Neil Barnes, Stephen Burton and Joe Riches all voted against a review into the controversial trial.

Opposition Liberal Democrats, who proposed the review, accused the Labour councillors of protecting their leadership. Ian Cuthbertson, who sits on the committee for the Lib Dems said:

"It is hugely disappointing that Labour councillors have blocked an inquiry into the Lendal Bridge trial. Liberal Democrats wanted a proper cross-party review of the trial to ensure that unanswered questions are addressed and lessons are learnt."

"Whatever the rights and wrongs of having the trial in the first place, it is clear that it was very badly implemented and managed. Poor signage meant that over 50,000 motorists were fined, the closure caused increased congestion in other parts of the city, then it was ruled ‘unlawful’ by the Government’s Traffic Adjudicator. We need to understand why these things happened, so that future attempts at tackling congestion do not end in similar failure."

“It is hard to escape the conclusion that Labour councillors cynically blocked the scrutiny review to shield their Leader and the Cabinet Member responsible from proper public scrutiny. If this is the case, it is clearly an unacceptable approach which does our city and its residents a huge disservice.”

However, the chair of the Economic and City Development Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Labour's Anna Semlyen said the decision was not political. She said in a statement to Minster FM

“A number of councillors on the committee felt that to accommodate this topic would require us to cancel one of our existing topics, all of which relate to job creation as one of the council’s key priorities.  Each of these topics gained cross-party support when we decided to review them.  Ultimately the committee agreed that these scrutiny topics would add more value than the proposal put forward after the committee’s work programme was agreed.  Views were also expressed about such a review jeopardising the legal process concerning the bridge trial before it is concluded”.

York Council leader James Alexander had described the idea of a review as "politics not scrutiny". Former Transport boss Dave Merrett and council official Darren Richardson also opposed a review saying it could put the council's ongoing appeal against the government's Traffic Adjudicator at risk.

The adjudicator decided in April that the city council could not use it's cameras to enforce the Lendal Bridge and Coppergate restrictions. The Lendal Bridge trial was abandoned later that month.

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