Last night Councillors from across Enfield were directly presented with the many manifest failings concerning the data relied upon by the Council to make the Bowes LTN permanent. Despite this, Enfield Council’s Overview & Scrutiny Committee, meeting to discuss two call ins of the Bowes LTN decision, voted to confirm the decision rather than refer it back to Council Leader Nesil Caliskan. The call in submitted by the Community First group of Liberal Democrat, Green and independent Councillors focused entirely on the failure of the Council’s report to present any data which conclusively, robustly and objectively showed that the trial had been a success.
Speaking on behalf of Community First when presenting the call in to the Committee, independent Councillor Daniel Anderson (Southgate Green) said the basis for referring to decision back to the Council Leader was clear and ultimately consisted in the total failure of the report relied upon to provide data on two crucial questions: “The first is whether the supposed benefits of the scheme’s implementation outweigh any resulting harm which may be caused, and the second is whether as a direct result of the scheme’s implementation it led to a reduction in vehicle pollution, improved air quality and encouraged safe active travel.”
Responding on behalf of the Council’s administration, Council Leader Nesil Caliskan responded to Cllr Anderson’s remarks by stating that “either you want to do something about air quality, or you don’t”, completely ignoring the fact that her own Council officers admitted in their official response to the Community First call in that the data presented in the Bowes LTN report failed to evidence any improvement in the borough’s air quality.
After having observed the proceedings in the chamber, which were interrupted several times by despondent residents frustrated at the continual refusal of the Council to engage with any legitimate criticism of its approach, Liberal Democrat Councillor Ayfer Orhan (Ponders End) said this:
“This whole process was farcical. Here we have colleagues detailing, in precise terms and with reference to general standards of scientific methodology, exactly what is wrong with the approach taken by the Council and all Cllr Caliskan can say is, basically, either you’re with us or against us.
“What on Earth happened to evidence-based policy? Either you trial something for 18 months, gather robust data, and then make an informed decision. Or you take a political decision based on nothing more than ideology, opinion and wishful thinking.
“By refusing to engage with the clear flaws in the data presented to the Committee and then not even being willing to refer the decision back for review, it’s now clearer than ever that loyalty to the Council Leader counts far more than robust evidence among the ranks of the Labour administration.
“Unfortunately, the losers from this will be the Bowes community itself, along with care workers, the vulnerable and people with disabilities, and anyone else caught in their money-making scheme. Enfield Labour really have abandoned their values, truly disappointing.”
Meanwhile, a report on the second of Enfield’s LTN schemes, covering Fox Lane and surrounding roads, is due to be published soon. An invitation to ward Councillors to be given a briefing on the results of the monitoring in the Fox Lane LTN was sent out only two days beforehand and the only time offered coincided with Shabbat. Following complaints from Councillors, an alternative time later offered then only gave Councillors less than one day's notice.
Commenting on this independent Councillor Dinah Barry (Winchmore Hill), leader of Community First, said:
“I have been unable to find out why such short notice was given or why there is such urgency for this meeting. If consultation with ward Councillors is merely a tick box exercise this is understandable but if local Councillors’ knowledge of their wards is valuable why not provide us with sufficient notice so that we can take an effective part in decisions that affect the future of our residents?”
Following the disappointing vote at the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on the Bowes LTN and the news of the Council’s failure to give Cllr Dinah Barry and fellow ward Councillors sufficient notice to discuss the data so far gathered in the Fox Lane LTN trial, Liberal Democrat Council candidate Matt McLaren (Winchmore Hill) said this:
“I really am outraged at this Council’s failure to listen on LTNs. As several Cabinet members themselves conceded at last night’s Overview & Scrutiny meeting, LTNs are a hugely divisive issue which provoke strong emotions on all sides. But by their refusal to either (a) review a decision ostensibly based on data which has now been shown to have some pretty massive flaws, and (b) give proper notice to our local ward Councillors so they can actually engage meaningfully in the discussion at the crucial evaluation stage; Enfield Council repeatedly flan the flames of resentment and do nothing to quell the anger of residents who, quite rightly, feel both ignored and let down.
“Liberal Democrats in Enfield are working with popular local independents to stand on a clear platform of restoring local democracy and empowering local residents. Here’s hoping we elect a much more responsive Council on 5th May.”