Edinburgh Council labelled ‘disgrace’ over road closure changes

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The city council has been branded a “disgrace” after agreeing to allow non-elected officers to shut roads without decisions being scrutinised by councillors.

Officers can now use delegated powers to make traffic regulation orders (TROs) “where there have been not more than six material objections”. But Liberal Democrat and Conservative councillors objected to the proposals put forward by the Greens and backed by the SNP-Labour coalition.

Council officers can now authorise road closures but some councillors object to new powers. Picture: Michael Gillen

Council officers can now authorise road closures but some councillors object to new powers. Picture: Michael Gillen

A TRO can now be approved by officers without having to come before councillors with a detailed report after fears were raised that the process can hold up work by 12 to 18 months.

Last month it was revealed that only 36 per cent of scheduled prioritised road projects were expected to be finished by March, although projects carried over from previous years were also being completed. There is also an £8.35m underspend on the council’s capital roads projects – money which remains untouched.

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Green Cllr Melanie Main, who tabled the amendment, asked to “delegate decisions where there are a small number of objections”.

She added: “The timescale for delivering a traffic regulation order is listed as 12 to 18 months.

“The waiting list and the backlog to these hundreds of jobs that are outstanding is growing. This can add many, many months to the time it takes to get work started.

“The TRO process already has built into it, two consultation periods and statutory consultees. It’s time for us to support our officers by trusting them to make decisions and do the work we have been asking for.”

The proposals were backed by transport and environment convener, Cllr Lesley Macinnes.

She said: “I think we need to find some means with dealing with particular aspects of TROs which are holding up work. We need to move on this – it’s one aspect of it.

“I have a meeting with the Cabinet Secretary at the beginning of the new year and this is certainly one of the topics that I will be raising with him. There are many reasons for delays. This is one we can sort quickly and simply. I think there’s a plea to trust our officers to deal with these.”

But other opposition parties voted against the proposals, hitting out at a lack of consultation and notice.

Liberal Democrat Cllr Kevin Lang said: “Traffic regulation orders such as new road closures or parking restrictions can have a major impact on local communities. This new process means there is no guarantee that objections raised by community councils or residents’ groups will go before elected councillors.

“Instead, unelected council officials can have the right to take decisions on their own. It is a disgrace that such a significant change has been rammed through the council with only 24 hours notice and, more importantly, without any public consultation. It shows total disregard for the principle of openness and is deeply disrespectful to those in our local communities.”

Conservatives also objected to the move.

Transport spokesman Cllr Nick Cook said: “We do not need less oversight on this council, we need much more.”