As of 24 December the Cambridge Environment and Traffic Management Area Joint Committee was no more. Perhaps on the face of it this may not seem like such a serious issue. Just a small change in the scheme of things. It isn’t.
We may need some history here. The AJC was set up in 1997 to enable joint working between the city and county council (which has ultimate responsibility for transport) on transport issues that affect the city.It was made up of county and city councillors such that they could consider cycleway programmes, parking charges, traffic calming crossings and other related items. Some of the schemes they considered were the Regent Street crossing, Gilbert Road, the Newmarket Road/Abbey Road crossing (greeted, I noted at the time, with enthusiasm) as well as looking at the introduction of No Entry Except Cyclists signs which has improved permeability around the city. Of course they didn’t have the final say, but their voice was useful in informing the final decision.
Now, however, that voice has been lost. The county council cabinet members voted to abolish the AJC and replace it with one county councillor, from outside Cambridge, who has little reason to come into the city, to deal with the entire portfolio. We have no axe to grind with the councillor involved but we do wonder how one person can possibly be expected to do the work of a committee of 12 councillors.
While we the residents of Cambridge elected those local councillors to represent our views, apparently their views and therefore our views are not welcomed any more. We aren’t suggesting that in every respect the AJC always got it right but in terms of allowing for scrutiny of plans that affect us in the city, it was valuable. Valuable in enabling residents, campaign groups (not just ourselves but others too) and residents’ associations to make their views known. The AJC was not a body that in any way operated to a ‘cyclists’ charter’. Often, it heard competing requests from groups such as residents and disability groups, and disagreed with our point of view. But this is not the point. The point is that each group had an opportunity to argue their case in public, scrutinise the debate, and respect the eventual decision. It seems decisions may well be made behind closed doors where the arguments cannot be heard. This is a very sad day for democracy and makes the job representing our 1,100 members that much harder.