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Scrap highway panels! They are waste of our cash says barred Tory councillor
6:00am Friday 11th October 2013 in News
AN outspoken councillor has called on Essex County Council to scrap its local highways panels after he was barred from attending meetings for being “aggressive and disruptive”.
John Dornan, Tory ward member for Laindon Park, has branded the panels a “waste of taxpayers’ cash” and said they ignore residents’ concerns about traffic issues in their local area.
The Local Highways Panels, which have been set up in all 12 districts and boroughs in Essex, have budgets of up to £1million and meet regularly to decide on schemes to reduce traffic and improve road safety.
Although local ward councillors are invited to attend, any recommendations made by the panel have to be signed off by Rodney Bass, the county council’s cabinet member for highways and transportation.
At the most recent meeting of the Basildon group – on September 24 – Mr Dornan attended to press for a zebra crossing on King Edward Road, in Laindon, to help elderly residents safely cross the road to reach a newly-opened shop.
He also wanted to press for a “no right turn” at the Old Forge on Dunton Road to be scrapped as residents say it is dangerous. However Mr Dornan said he was continually prevented from speaking by the panel’s chairman, Labour’s Pitsea North West ward councillor Keith Bobbin.
In the aftermath of the meeting the senior Tory received a letter from Mr Bobbin barring him from attending future meetings.
Mr Dornan fumed: “These meetings should be scrapped immediately and that will save Essex County Council £1million.
“They are just a rubber stamping exercise where the panel approve everything the county council says, they are not interested in the views of local residents and councillors.
“The panel said neither the zebra crossing or scrapping the no right turnmet ‘its criteria’, all it was bothered about was approving some fence panels in Courtauld Road.What is the point of these panels?”
The letter from Mr Bobbin, also signed by Paul Bird, the county council’s director for commissioning for transport and infrastructure, said Mr Dornan was “disruptive”and spoke to the panel and council officers “aggressively and in a derogatory manner”.
LABOUR’s veteran councillor Keith Bobbin has stood by his decision to bar Tory John Dornan from future meetings of the Local Highways Panel.
The Pitsea North West ward councillor also insisted there was “no personality clash” between him and the outspoken Tory.
Just last week the Echo told how Mr Bobbin had reported Mr Dornan to the council’s standards board, the watchdog which monitors councillors’ behaviour, after twice mocking his speech problems at a meeting of Basildon Council.
Mr Dornan heckled Mr Bobbin as he spoke, telling him to “speak English”, despite the fact the Labour politician suffers from Bell’s Palsy which can cause facial paralysis and slurred speech.
Mr Bobbin said his decision to bar Mr Dornan from the meetings, which came before that incident, was purely down to the fact his behaviour was offensive to the panel and council officers.
He said: “Every time I tried to speak he was interrupting and was upsetting the committee and the officers. The whole point of the panel is people should raise issues with their county councillor and get them to then raise it. They are private meetings and are run a certain way otherwise every Tom, Dick or Harry would turn up.”
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