Tory councillors: "Put bus plans on ice until vote for Bristol Mayor"
TWO of Bristol's most senior politicians have called for major transport schemes to be halted until after the election of the new mayor.
Peter Abraham, leader of the city council's Conservative group, and Tory mayoral candidate Geoff Gollop believe the two major schemes should be put on hold until after the vote next month.
As reported in the Post, the Government has agreed to fund the controversial Rapid Transit or bendy bus system. Last week there was criticism of the council for agreeing to spend £4.5 million on the project before a crucial planning inquiry has taken place.
And now the Conservative group have accused Lib Dems of pushing ahead with the scheme in the face of growing opposition.
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The Tories say the controversial Ashton Vale to Temple Meads route and the North Fringe to Hengrove Package should be shelved until after next month's election.
Opponents say the Lib Dem has decided to press ahead even though several of the mayoral candidates have spoken out against bendy buses. Once the mayor is elected they will have ultimate responsibility.
The two councillors have "called in" the decision taken by the city council cabinet on the grounds that there has been a failure to properly consult people. If the council's legal officer accepts this challenge, a special meeting will have to be called to determine further action is needed.
Geoff Gollop said: "It is absolutely ridiculous to try to steam-roller these major transport schemes through in this way, irrespective of the views of our future mayor. After all, it is he or she who will have to oversee the completion of this investment programme. This decision also precedes and completely ignores the outcome of a six-week public enquiry into the highly controversial BRT2."
Peter Abraham added: "BRT2 is incredibly costly, both financially and environmentally, and may not offer the much promised transport solutions needed in this city. There are also design flaws with route three, which I would like changed before any more money is spent on this scheme."
Deputy city council leader Jon Rogers (left), standing as the Lib Dems mayoral candidate, has described the move by the Conservatives as "scandalous and irresponsible".
He said: "If, as is very possible, this call-in cannot be held until late November, at the earliest, that will load several hundred thousand pounds on to the cost of the BRT project – possibly, up to £1 million. That's the likely cost of a two-month delay, forced on the council – and its partner authorities – by a call-in which, for obvious electoral reasons, cannot be held during the 'purdah' period."
He added: "The call-in is just a political gesture, a gimmick to raise the Tory profile in the run-up to the November election. The decision of the Tory candidate for mayor, Councillor Gollop, to back this move is scandalously irresponsible.
"What beggars belief is that the Tories have stalled the BRT process even though, when the submission was brought to the all-party working group, their representatives agreed its terms. The bid that went to government was unchanged."