Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence



  1.  Northampton is a large and expanding town. The Borough Council is a powerful authority, but not a unitary. The highway authority is the County Council, although many functions are delegated on an agency basis to the borough, especially the sort of powers that affect walking. There appears to be a difficult relationship between the two authorities, exacerbated by the borough's unsuccessful attempts to be a unitary authority. Many borough councillors are also on the County Council, which might be expected to help understanding, but must also cause problems in representing the distinct interests of the two authorities.

  2.  It is the County Council which has prepared the Local Transport Plan and before that the TPP bid for funding. Formerly, decisions on the allocation of integrated transport resources to schemes were mainly made by officers, and it was to them that lobbying from the public or interest groups could be directed. Since a new "cabinet" system has been introduced by the County Council they have formed Area Committees to make up the democratic deficit which otherwise might be perceived.

  3.  County Council officers tell me it is these committees that will decide on which schemes will be undertaken and their priority. However there is also in Northampton a joint members liaison group that the Borough Council says, in public documents, will make the decisions. The meetings of this "Highways and Traffic Partnership Board Northampton Liaison Group" are not open to the public. Their minutes are presented at the borough Planning and Transportation Committee where they are approved with their lists of schemes without amendment.

  4.  These minutes show the group to consist of councillors representing the Borough Council who are often also County Councillors, half a dozen officers of the Borough Council and a couple from the County Council. It is not clear to me how any member of the public or lobby group could make any comment or meaningful input into this decision making process, or indeed understand it.

  5.  Police policy on such matters as path closure is even less open to public discussion. They appear to regard it as a technical problem of control. Any public consultation is merely public relations to gain acceptance from communities who are having their paths closed.

  6.  The fact that councillors may be on the Borough Council, the County Council and the police authority is less a reason to have confidence in partnership and liaison than to fear there are conflicts of interests and a failure to properly represent people.

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Prepared 29 June 2001