Edinburgh transport committee must rerun controversial vote on closure of Brunstane Road after legal advice that two councillors should not have taken part
A special meeting of Edinburgh’s transport committee has been hastily arranged to re-run a controversial decision after legal advice that two councillors who took part in the original vote should not have done so.
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The decision to close Brunstane Road – because of long-running issues of congestion leading to anti-social behaviour by drivers – was taken at a meeting of the committee on November 11 amid sharp local divisions with those living on Brunstane Road strongly in favour of closure and residents of neighbouring streets strongly opposed.
A complaint has already been made to the standards watchdog that Labour councillors Karen Doran and Maureen Child took part in the vote, backing the proposal, despite declaring an interest – both live nearby – and despite allegedly having expressed views on the issue ahead of the meeting.
And now, following internal legal advice, a second meeting has been called for December 2 to take the decision again in a bid to avoid any legal challenge.
Two local organisations, both opposed to the plan, were told the night before the November 11 meeting that they could not make deputations because the decision on whether to approve the necessary Traffic Regulation Order was a quasi-judicial matter.
But at the meeting, when Tory group leader Iain Whyte raised the issue of councillors with an interest taking part in the vote, convener Lesley Macinnes said the fact they had declared their interest was enough.
However, a council source said: “On Friday there was an email from the head of legal saying these two councillors should not have taken part in the vote and because they declared an interest and still took part it could open the decision to a legal challenge and so the debate and the vote are going to have to be rerun at a specially-organised transport committee meeting next month.”
Councillor Whyte said calling an extra committee meeting was “a complete waste of taxpayers’ money”.
He said: “If they had bothered to pay attention when I raised the point of order we could have addressed this at the time.”
And he questioned whether closing the road was really a matter of urgency that could not wait until January, avoiding the additional cost of a special meeting
And Lib Dem councillor Kevin Lang said: "It is little wonder people in Edinburgh have such little confidence in the council when it can't even get simple procedures like this right.
"The issue of closing Brunstane Road has polarised opinion in the community. It is embarrassing to see this whole situation now having to be revisited again, simply because of council mistakes."
The resident who made the complaint to the commissioner for ethical standards in public life welcomed the council’s acceptance that the two councillors should not have voted.
"It was totally unfair they were preventing members of the public from making a deputation and not applying the same advice to councillors,” he said.
But the complainer said there was little chance of the vote, which was seven to four in favour of closure, producing a different outcome next time.
A council spokesperson said: “In light of a procedural issue with the initial approval of this report, elected members will be considering it again at a special meeting of transport and environment committee on December 2.”