- Southport Conservatives and Liberal Democrats go to war over handling of Southport cycle lane scheme
- Tories accused Lib Dems of pushing for additional Birkdale lanes, which Lib Dems deny
- Council says lack of consultation was down to Conservative government timeframes
- Debate heats up ahead of Councillor elections in May
Damien Moore has called on the Government to prevent the temporary cycle lanes installed in Southport last year from becoming permanent.
The controversial cycle lanes have been at the centre of a political tug-of-war since their installation. Mr Moore said the loss of revenue from Hoghton’s Street’s pay and display alone would be £137,000.
Petitions against cycle lanes installed on Hoghton Street and Queens Road attracted thousands of signatures.
Damien Moore said: “Labour-run Sefton Council is pressing ahead with temporary cycle lanes in Southport town centre, despite hundreds of objections from local residents and businesses – and no formal consultation.
“That’s why I’m lobbying the Government to stop Sefton Council making these temporary cycle lanes PERMANENT, and to upgrade pre-existing cycle lanes.”
Damien Moore is asking constituents opposed to the scheme to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
But the Liberal Democrats have accused the Conservatives of using cycle lanes as a political football, citing the example of disputed accuracy in a press release issued by Conservative councillor candidate Lee Durkin, which accused John Pugh’s party of pushing for cycle lanes routed through Birkdale.
Conservative Candidate Lee Durkin said: “Our existing Lib Dem councillors have totally failed to provide any form of effective opposition. It is only in recent weeks, as we approach an election, that they have taken an interest which is a bit odd given last year they were delivering leaflets in support of cycle lanes in Birkdale!’”
However, in recent weeks Liberal Democrat councillor Tony Dawson did publicly criticise the Council over lack of public consultation over the lanes.
Lib Dem Cllr Pat Keith has tabled questions at Council cabinet meetings over a lack of consultation, while John Pugh has invited Minister of State Chris Heaton-Harris MP to Southport to see the scheme, an offer which Cllr Pugh says was declined.
In January Cllr Dawson said: “There was no consultation at all when Sefton Council grabbed at a government grant and imposed cycling schemes thought up in a hurry by one or two council officers late last year, and intentions have been announced to bring in considerably more cycle lanes, again in a hurry.”
However, in November, local resident George Ingram told OTS News: “Having used these lanes on a regular basis since their introduction, I can tell you that I now feel much safer navigating through the town centre on my bike. And contrary to popular belief, I have seen many other cyclists who are also benefitting from them.”
But Sefton Council says that the lack of public consultation was because of pressure applied by the Government.
Sefton Council leader Ian Maher said: “In May during what was and still remains an incredibly difficult time for councils across the country, the Conservative Government, through their Emergency Active Travel Fund, placed significant pressure on Sefton Council to urgently reallocate road space to produce cycling and walking facilities.
“To further compound these pressures, the Government then stipulated that these schemes had to be started within four weeks and completed within eight weeks of funding being approved.
“This, unfortunately, meant it was not possible to carry out a consultation in the way we normally would with our valued communities, due to the incredibly restrictive nature of Mr Moore’s Conservative Government’s timescale and requirements.
“We are wholly aware of the continued need to make savings and recoup income to help cope with ongoing and ever increasing Government cuts in funding and Mr Moore is correct in saying this Central Government scheme will indeed further cause Sefton Council to lose out on much needed revenue.