Coppergate fines stand – for now
In an amazing U turn – before even the results of their appeal against the traffic adjudicator ruling have been revealed – the York Council’s Labour Leadership has announced that they will refund over £1 million in fines levied against motorists who used Lendal Bridge during the ill fated access restriction trial.
They have yet to submit the proposal to a formal Council decision meeting.
The Council have already spent over £700,000 – of the £1.8 million fine income that it raised from Lendal Bridge and Coppergate – on administering the trial, so taxpayers are in for a hefty hit.
The Council only broke even on its budget during the last financial year because of the ANPR camera bonanza.
The failed experiment ultimately led to the demotion of Labour Councillor Dave Merrett, although he still holds a £20,000 a year Cabinet job.
Residents will now be looking at the future of Council leader James Alexander who bears ultimate responsibility for the financial and organisational disaster.
The Council have not said how motorists will be able to claim a rebate.
There is a suspicion that visitors – particularly those from overseas – may never hear about the change of heart. They may continue to be out of pocket as a result of the Councils unlawful actions.
Last month Labour Councillor Stephen Burton (Westfield) led an attempt to block plans to have an independent inquiry into the fiasco.
When unveiled a year ago, Liberal Democrats opposed the trial saying that it was badly timed and poorly executed.
In September 2013 (after only a few weeks of the trial) Liberal Democrats called for it to be abandoned against a background of huge enforcement issues.
If the Council had accepted then that they had made a major mistake, taxpayers would not now be facing a £1million bill.
The Council statement comes only 2 days after a Liberal Democrat Councillor tabled the following question for next Thursdays Council meeting.
(xxxiii) To the Cabinet Member for Transport from CllrAspden: “ Would the Cabinet member confirm the number of Fixed Penalty Notices issued for breaches of the access restrictions on Coppergate since 1st April 2014 and would he confirm that no action is currently being taken to enforce the restrictions?”
The Council was also finally set to discuss a motion submitted 4 months ago by Cllr Ann Reid which read,
To deal with the following Lendal Bridge notice of motion referred back to Council by Cabinet, from its meeting on 6 May 2014, after consideration of the evaluation of the trial. A copy of the Cabinet report and minute are attached as Annexes 1 and 2 (Annexes A to G of this report are available online only).
(i) From Cllr Reid
“Council notes the report in The Press on 27th February which revealed important facts about the Lendal Bridge closure.
Council further notes that:
- The Labour Cabinet’s six-month trial closure of Lendal Bridge should have finished at the end of February
- The closure has brought widespread criticism from local residents, business owners, tourists and tourist groups
- Negative media and social media coverage has been generated to the detriment of our city
- The closure has failed to significantly improve overall bus journey times
- Traffic displaced by the closure has caused increased congestion elsewhere in the city e.g. Foss Islands Road and Water End at Clifton Bridge
- Officers have admitted that the trial closure has had little impact on overall air quality
- The Labour Cabinet Member responsible has admitted that the signage at the start of the trial was “very confusing”
- Around 45,000 motorists have received fines for crossing the bridge.
Council therefore resolves to ask Cabinet to:
- immediately end the trial closure of Lendal Bridge
- publicly admit that the trial has been botched and to apologise for this
- immediately publish the raw data on the trial ahead of their detailed evaluation report
- commit to consulting with residents and local businesses before bringing forward any future plans for Lendal Bridge.”
It seems, that with many Labour Councillors now deserting a sinking ship, the Leadership has decided to try to find a lifeboat of its own!