Islington Council has been accused of “cowardly” behaviour after its members voted against taking public questions at the annual Budget Meeting.
Residents who attended the meeting have accused the Council of using an “us and them” style after being banned from posing their questions about planned changes to the gyratory transport system on Archway Road– changes that residents say will see 50 empty buses an hour coming down Archway Road simply to turn around.
The public had been informed that Councillor Claudia Webbe, Islington’s transport leader, would be answering questions on the matter.
But when at the start of the meeting the Mayor asked councillors to vote on whether or not they would take questions from the public gallery, they resoundingly voted “no”.
Attendee and Archway resident Chris Sparks said: “This is downright disgusting behaviour and something I would never expect from a Labour council.
“We were upset, there is no need for this us and them style. That is not democracy.”
At Islington Council budget meeting. Shocking treatment of public asking important questions on pollution by the Labour Cabinet #islingtonfc
— Ben Hickey (@BenMCHickey) February 25, 2016
Plans to remove the gyratory system on Archway Road were announced earlier this year by Transport for London (TfL).
The scheme will see the one-way system made two-way. Bus stands from the existing site on Vorley Road will be moved to on-street locations, meaning new bus stands on Archway Road.
Transport for London, which is implementing the change, says the scheme will make the area safer and more attractive, making it more pedestrian- and cycle-friendly.
Residents fear the scheme will worsen pollution and increase congestion around the Archway area, displacing traffic onto residential streets. A high-speed crash outside the Vorley Road nursery at the end of last month raised further alarm about the impact increased traffic will have on an area with a high population of children.
A peaceful protest was staged outside the Town Hall before the budget meeting and a petition against the plans has gathered more than 1,000 signatures.
Chris Bailey, resident of Harberton Road, said: “The idea that [the council] would consciously work with TfL on a scheme that puts that level of unnecessary bus journeys through a residential area past all these kids walking to school beggars belief.
“I find it remarkable and depressing that they didn’t at least give people the opportunities to make their views heard. By not doing that, they increasingly suggest they have something to hide.”
During the meeting Councillor Webbe gave two responses to questions that had been submitted by residents on the issue. They both received booing and heckling from the public gallery.
The first question came from Kiat Phua, who is campaigning against the plans.
She said: “Many parents are alarmed by the accident outside Archway Children’s Centre on 28 January .
“Could the council make Vorley Road safer by banning left turns from Junction Road as part of the traffic reversal – and look into separating Vorley Road from MacDonald Road as part of the longer-term plan for more affordable housing in the area?”
The second, from Jenny Thompson, questioned what would be done to ensure the 600-plus families who regularly use the centre are not exposed to high levels of pollution as a result of the changes.
Cllr Webbe’s responses to both questions were met with shouts from the public gallery including: “It’s too late!”, “It’s a dog’s dinner!” and “Did you consult your tenants on Anthony Road? No!”
Since the meeting, Cllr Webbe has told Islington Now: “The Council responded to the consultation on behalf of residents and represented all the views expressed as part of its response.
“Our response to the consultation is publicly available and I believe is detailed on both TfL’s and the Council’s website. We were praised by all for fairly representing their views.”
Picture: Google Streetview