19 MAR 2012

Committee threatens rapid transit

Decision-making fix risks council's reputation

A 'rushed and ill-thought out' change to decision-making at South Gloucestershire Council could risk funding for a major transport scheme, according to local MP Jack Lopresti who campaigned in Parliament for the investment to the local area.

South Gloucestershire Council's Labour Group has called a vote at next week's Council meeting (Wednesday 21st March) on changing the decision-making system from the current Cabinet system back to old-style Committee system without any public consultation.

At the moment, the Cabinet Member for Transport sits on the West of England Joint Transport Executive Committee (JTEC), which includes all four councils that make up the former Avon area – where major sub-regional decisions on transport are made.

The government has rewarded this close partnership working between the authorities by provisionally approving a series of major transport schemes, including the North Fringe to Hengrove Package (NFHP) rapid transit scheme.

But under the Committee System, no-one councillor would be in charge of transport and South Gloucestershire councillors could decide that they all wanted to attend the JTEC.

The NFHP was recently granted 'programme entry status' by the Department for Transport (DfT). This allows the council to complete the remaining legal and procurement processes (but not enter into contractual or other legal commitments for the construction of the scheme) following which a request for 'Full Approval' can be made.

And South Gloucestershire Council has been appointed by the DfT to be the accountable body for the NFHP.

Filton and Bradley Stoke MP Jack Lopresti said:

"There's a real danger that South Gloucestershire will look ridiculous in the eyes of not only our partner authorities in the West of England, but also the Department for Transport who is yet to grant full approval to the rapid transit scheme.

It's bad enough that the Labour Group are trying to force through this massive constitutional change without bothering to ask what the public think, but they have failed to understand the implications this has for rapid transit.

This unnecessary, rushed and ill-thought out shake-up of decision-making risks the council's reputation with the DfT for being a reliable and competent partner who can be trusted to deliver a multi-million pound major transport scheme.

I urge Labour to take a step back and take the time to consult widely because South Gloucestershire Council belongs to its residents, not the Labour Party."

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