Councillors express anger after meeting at which Bowes LTN report was not debated, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter
Enfield Council has been accused of “blocking” scrutiny of a key report on a controversial low-traffic scheme after it was not discussed at a recent meeting.
Opposition councillors were left “frustrated” when they were stopped from debating the report on the low-traffic neighbourhood (LTN) in Bowes during a meeting of the environment and climate action scrutiny panel on 9th December.
The Conservative group subsequently accused the Labour administration of trying to dodge scrutiny and said residents who had turned up to the meeting were angered by the “lack of transparency” on display.
Responding to the claims, panel chair Mahmut Aksanoglu said he acted “appropriately and legally”, and the council added that there would be “plenty of opportunity” for the report to be scrutinised.
The Bowes Primary Area Quieter Neighbourhood – the official name of the LTN – was introduced by the council on an experimental basis in summer 2020. Like other LTN schemes, it uses barriers and enforcement cameras to close residential streets to through traffic.
A long-awaited report examining data and feedback on the LTN was published the day before the scrutiny panel met. It recommended making the scheme permanent – despite more than 52% of residents who took part in the public consultation on the LTN submitting negative views, compared with less than 25% who said they welcomed the measures.
The agenda for the scrutiny panel included a “school streets progress and quieter neighbourhoods update”, so opposition councillors thought the Bowes report could be discussed. But Cllr Aksanoglu, a member of the Labour group, refused to allow a debate on the LTN report.
Conservative panel member Andrew Thorp said: “Enfield’s Labour administration has a track record of failing to listen to residents. Now, they are trying to stop councillors debating important reports. As we move towards May’s elections, transparency is more important than ever, to allow residents to make informed choices at the ballot box.”
Independent panel member Daniel Anderson said he had been told by the council’s chief executive prior to the meeting that the Bowes LTN report was a “legitimate item for discussion”.
He claimed panel members were told by a council officer during an adjournment of the meeting that it could not be discussed due to “legal advice” – but the same officer confirmed the following day that legal advice had been sought and the report could have been debated “at the discretion of the chair”.
Cllr Aksanoglu said: “I chaired the scrutiny panel appropriately and legally in order to ensure due process was followed.
“LTNs and other traffic measures have been and will continue to be discussed in great detail by all elected members in a variety of council forums including the opportunity for the decision to be called in, in the coming weeks, for further scrutiny.”
A council spokesperson said: “No decision has yet been taken in respect of the Bowes Primary Area Quieter Neighbourhood project. Should the report be agreed, there will be plenty of opportunity for it to be fully scrutinised.”