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County Council 'seriously misleading public' on Guided Bus
Council's Ombudsman asked to investigate
Date Issued: 6 May 2004
Cambridgeshire County Council's recent publication, Prospects 2004, featured an article headlined 'Guided Bus project will ease A14' – CAST.IRON's chairman Tim Phillips has branded this as "a blatant distortion of the truth and a desperate attempt to shore up their sinking flagship". The newspaper was delivered to 214,000 Cambridgeshire households at taxpayers' expense during March - at the same time that Central Government was inviting comments on the guided bus scheme from the public.
"However the County Council's official application and justification makes no claim to 'ease' the A14, and at a public meeting in January, Council officials admitted that as few as 2% of vehicles would be removed by the scheme. All these vehicles would be cars, with no reduction in HGV traffic whatsoever", said Mr Phillips.
"This is an appalling example of abuse of power by using taxpayers' money to present a picture that any reasonable person would regard as seriously misleading. This is bad enough, but to have done so during the consultation period in an attempt to reduce the number of objections is nothing short of scandalous."
Despite the publicity, nearly 3,000 submissions were made to Government, of which only four were in support of the guided bus with three making general comments. Using the latest figures provided, opposition to the scheme is 99.74%.
Graham Hughes, Project Director for the guided bus scheme, has been quoted as saying the level of objection was what the team 'expected'.
"This is a ridiculous statement", said Mr Phillips. "The total number of comments of all kinds during the Council's so-called consultation last July was only 2,200. The level of objection now submitted to Central Government is a record for this kind of scheme under the Transport and Works Act – and it is significant that objection levels have actually grown as the Council is slowly and painfully drawn into revealing further details of the scheme. How many more objections would have been put in if the Council had not published its propaganda when it did?"
"The Council's application made no commitment on either the routes to be taken through Cambridge City Centre or the number of buses running through the City. "These are details that would have increased the level of objection and that further weaken the economic case for the whole project", said Mr Phillips.
CAST.IRON has submitted an official complaint to Michelle Rowe, the Council's internal 'Ombudsman'.
Note to editors: CAST.IRON is the correct acronym for the organisation, in upper case with the dot.
For more information about CAST.IRON visit www.castiron.org.uk.
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