Written notice has been given in accordance with the Council’s Scrutiny procedure rules requiring a delegated decision taken by the Cabinet Member for Travel Development and Strategy on the Burford Experimental Weight Limit on 5 January 2022 to be called in for review by this Committee.
The following documents are attached:
(a) a report setting out the reasons given for the Call In.
(b) the decision taken by the Cabinet member
(b) the report considered by the Cabinet member
(c) the list of Councillors requesting the call-in
(d) the statement of reasons for the call-in submitted by Councillor Nicholas Field-Johnson
The Chair introduced the report and explained the process by which this committee would review the decision taken by the Cabinet member for Transport and Development Strategy.
Councillor Nicholas Field-Johnson addressed the committee and stressed that the reasons for requesting the call in were not intended as personal comments on the integrity of the Cabinet Member. He suggested that Councillor Enright was conflicted as a member of the Witney Town Council which had consistently supported the revocation of the experimental weight restriction. He explained the reasons why he had requested the call in which was set out in Annex D of the report.
Anita Bradley, the Monitoring Officer addressed the committee at this point and said that there was no evidence of conflict, bias or predetermination in the Cabinet Member’s decision and that he was an appropriate member to take this decision.
Cllr Duncan Enright, Cabinet Member for Transport and Development Strategy then addressed the committee. He said that this as a balanced decision based on all the evidence which had been provided to him. He had abstained from voting on this issue at the Witney Town Council.
He confirmed that all of the data was available to him at the time of the decision. The data did not demonstrate that the ETRO had been successful on its own terms. This was not a predetermined decision and it is was not appropriate for members to suggest that he had been influenced by business or any other interests in making this decision.
The Chair then invited members of the committee to ask questions of Cllr Field-Johnson.
In response to a question from Cllr Charlie Hicks, Cllr Field Johnson said that the conditions of openness and proportionality had not been met.
The Monitoring Officer then reiterated her advice that there was no evidence of predetermination in the Cabinet member’s decision on this matter.
In response to a question from Cllr Sally Povolotsky, Cllr Field-Johnson said that he was not a member of any other local authority than the County Council,
The Chair invited questions to the Cabinet member.
Cllr Povolotsky asked about the sampling error ratio that the Council allowed in traffic data. Cllr Enright it was clear that as a result of the pandemic there had been significant changes to traffic data which had resulted in increased air quality.
Odele Parsons, Senior Transport Planner, explained the three types of traffic data sources set out in the report and their limitations. There was an allowance for errors of 10 per cent. The ANPR data had been excluded from the report to the Cabinet member because a benchmark has not been set at the start of the experiment. She was not aware of a code of practice for the use of statistics.
Cllr Nick Leverton, suggested that the experiment had not worked because of the inconsistencies in the evidence and the impact of the pandemic, and it was appropriate that the committee should review this decision.
Cllr Levy said that he was confident that Cllr Enright had not predetermined this decision and questioned why the Council had asked for APNR data part way through the experiment and would he have taken a different view if he had taken this evidence into account. Cllr Enright confirmed that this would not have changed his decision.
In response to a question from Cllr Roberts, Cllr Enright explained the timescales for the ETRO process.
In response to a question from the Chair, officers confirmed there was no new information provided since the delegated decision meeting. Cllr Enright, said that the key criterion used in his determination was an insufficient drop in numbers on the Burford Bridge.
The Monitoring Officer then explained that if the decision was referred back, it would need to be considered by the whole Cabinet.
Members then considered the evidence in the report and the representations made at this meeting, including the conflicting data provided to inform the Cabinet Member’s decision, the impact on the residents of the whole County, the impact of the Covid pandemic and the process by which the decision was taken.
Each member of the committee spoke on whether the Cabinet Member Decision should be referred to Cabinet and if so, the material concerns they had about the decision made and any proposed recommendations to the Cabinet from the scrutiny committee that might be made.
The main material concern cited as a reason for referral to the Cabinet was the clarity of the evidence base upon which the decision was made, as provided in the Cabinet Decision report 5 January 2022 and by officers at the meeting, including the weight afforded to the APNR data and other information used by the Cabinet Member to assess the course of action taken.
The Chair reminded the committee that this scrutiny was about the process, and the principles of decision making.
Cllr Baines moved and Cllr Hicks seconded, that no further action be taken and the decision of the Cabinet member be implemented.
With two members voting in favour, and four against, the Chair declared the motion lost.
The Monitoring Officer reminded the committee any decision to refer the decision back to cabinet would be on the basis of the information provided to the Cabinet member at the time that the decision was taken.
The Scrutiny Officer reminded the committee that, in consideration of any material concerns they may have about the Cabinet Member Decision, in considering whether to refer the matter to the Cabinet, the Principles of Decision Making, set out in Article 14 of the Council Constitution, included that decisions should be made in accordance with: (d) a presumption in favour of openness; and (e) clarity of aims and desired outcomes; and that these principles may be relevant to the material considerations cited by those members of the committee in favour of referring the decisions to Cabinet and that any recommendations to Cabinet may be to request greater clarity on the evidence base upon which the decision was made.
RESOLVED, on the casting vote of the Chair, four members voting in favour and four against, that the Burford Experimental Weight Limit delegated decision made by the Cabinet Member for Travel and Development Strategy on Wednesday 5 January 2022 be referred to Cabinet for consideration, recommending that greater clarity be provided on the evidence base upon which the decision was made.