Sunday, 17 July 2011

£34 million local transport project run in secret

County Tories have been accused of secrecy and the exclusion of local elected representatives over the radical redeployment of £34 million of public transport money.

Councillors have been excluded from meetings to discuss how the money will be spent and the Tories have failed to seek local input.

Furious councillors, Susan van de Ven, Lib Dem Transport Spokesperson and Tim Stone, who represents Duxford, voiced their disbelief during today’s Cambridgeshire County Council Cabinet meeting as members met to halt an earlier decision to withdraw bus subsidies.

Cllr van de Ven said, ‘It is ironic that one of the biggest Localism projects to date has been so highly secretive and tightly controlled. Local representatives have been rigorously excluded from day one and five months’ worth of work is either undocumented or held under terms of confidentiality.

“This is a £34 million project with no democratic accountability. Its conception is fundamentally anti-local. Considering that the project’s success depends on generating local solutions to local transport needs, it is perplexing that the council has chosen to work in a vacuum of local knowledge.”

Cllr Stone said that Duxford benefited from nearly £400,000 of bus subsidy each year – around 15 per cent of the total – which, if removed would leave six villages without buses.

He listed the meetings and discussions he had arranged with villagers and transport representatives and accused the Tories of a total lack of communication.

“You have had nobody from the affected villages on any of your Core Solutions Group, Cambridgeshire Transport Delivery Group, Cambridgeshire Future Transport or the Transport for Cambridgeshire Partnership,” he said.

“You have failed to listen to Liberal Democrats who proposed a root and branch survey of transport provision before slashing and burning. The result is a potential judicial review.” 

And later he added: “"Residents have been kept in the dark about the county's intentions. They want to know what is local transport going to look like when their bus service goes. How and when are parish councils going to be involved?  What help and advice are they to get? 

“It sounds fine to talk of communities going to determine how transport services are delivered but what does that mean in practice? There are many worried people in our villages."