Transport decisions for Cambridge will now be made in private by a single Cabinet member living outside Cambridge, following changes made today (11th December) by the County Council.
Despite our objection and those of many Councillors, the changes were forced through. One Councillor kindly read our speech. A last-ditch suggestion that we made, of a two-week notice period and notification when reports go online, was put forward thanks to Cllr Ian Manning. This suggestion has been referred to the County Council's constitutional committee for consideration, though this would be merely a mitigation against a fundamentally wrong change.
Our earlier statement is as follows:
The County Council agenda for 11th December proposes that the Cambridge Traffic Management Area Joint Committee be scrapped. We are strongly opposed to this proposal.
As an organisation with over 1,100 members, we naturally wish to represent the view of our members as effectively as possible. It is with this in mind that we raise strong concerns about the proposal to abolish the Committee. This committee is made up of elected councillors from the county and city councils. It meets four times per year and makes decisions about traffic management and highway issues. Transport is a County Council responsibility but affects the city of Cambridge and its residents. A joint committee is a means of ensuring their views are represented.
We understand that decisions on traffic schemes and Traffic Regulation Orders will in future, if this vote goes in favour, be taken by one Cabinet member [probably Councillor Tony Orgee who is currently Cabinet Member for Community Infrastructure]. Is this Cabinet member expected to do the work of the twelve councillors who currently make up the AJC? If so, we would like to ask how a single member can be properly informed of the issues in each city ward, as well as his own [Sawston], when, apart from full Cabinet meetings, such a Cabinet member has little reason to be in the area in his capacity as a County Councillor?
How can moving from a committee, meeting openly in public, to publishing a document somewhere on the County Council's website for 5 days, possibly "enhance the transparency of decision making"?
A committee, whose members include councillors who travel around the city, by various modes (foot, bicycle, bus, car) and frequently enough to have experienced the varying traffic conditions, will surely be in a better position to make decisions on matters relating to traffic management in the city. How can a single Cabinet member fully understand the concerns of residents, campaign groups (not just us but others too) and residents associations in the way that city-based councillors currently are as they make decisions about the city? At present these stakeholders are able to study and comment upon the agendas and papers for AJC meetings, as well as to attend and make representations. How will their views be presented in future?
We feel this is a retrograde step that, rather than making democracy more transparent in fact makes it more opaque, particularly as it is not clear whether decisions will be taken in public so the views of those residents and groups can be heard.
We urge Councillors to reconsider this step.