Last night my good friend Cllr. Iain Brodie-Browne tried to get Standing Orders suspended at Sefton’s Full Council meeting to facilitate an urgent debate on the increasingly strange activities of our highly paid (very highly paid) local Transport Authority, Merseytravel.
Readers may recall Merseytravel took a lot of flak recently for withdrawing (out of the blue I would add) from a process to integrate the local rail network and to save Merseyside Council tax payers some money in the process.
The move was a genuine shock to just about everyone but possibly the RMT union who it seems may well have been the reason for the policy U turn. The talk is that they may have pushed the Labour run Authority into the change of policy but so far Labour have not been keen to explain what went on and why. Clearly, some in depth scrutiny of Merseytravel is required as we are told they had spent £1.5m promoting the integration! Who will pay that bill now? And the answer better not be the Council Tax payers of Merseyside.
Returning to last night you will not be surprised to hear that the Labour Group on Sefton Council blocked having the debate by refusing to support Cllr. Brodie-Browne’s motion which fell needing just 5 more votes to have been passed.
This is what we wanted to debate:-
(1) This Council notes with disappointment the decision made by the controlling Labour Group on the Merseyside Integrated Transport Authority to end immediately, without further reports, or the results of any business case study the opportunity to take local control of the Merseyrail Electrics network from Network Rail.
(2) Council notes that this process has been ongoing for many years, and that in 2005/06 a business case for Full Local Decision Making (FLDM) was prepared and submitted showing clear benefits for Merseyside. This was endorsed by the Merseyside Passenger Transport Authority and was a Key Policy in Local Transport Plan Two (LTP2).
(3) Council further notes that FLDM was relaunched as Localism for Merseyrail (LFM) in 2010 and that the imperative for greater local control over the network infrastructure remains and the commitment to developing the case for this was reiterated in Local Transport Plan Three (LTP3).
(4) Council also notes that LFM has the support of the Department for Transport (DfT), Network Rail, Office of the Rail Regulator (ORR) and the Rail Freight Industry.
(5) Council believes that a fully integrated Merseyrail network would be in the best interests of Merseyside’s commuters and would enable local people and rail customers to have greater say in the decisions taken affecting the rail network in Merseyside.
(6) Council notes that £1.5m was spent promoting this scheme.
Council therefore requests:
(1) That the Chief Executive write to the Chief Executive and Director General of Merseytravel, Neil Scales, and to the Chairman of the Merseyside Integrated Transport Authority (MITA), expressing our Council’s disappointment at the decision made at the Authority’s meeting on 27th June, 2011.
(2) That MITA reverse the decision made at its meeting of the 27thJune and ask that Merseytravel Passenger Transport Executive (MPTE) commission a Business Case Study to determine benefits and risks of LFM. The results of that study are considered by a future MITA Authority meeting before a final decision is made on whether to move this matter forward to the next stage.
Well Sefton Labour ran for the hills and stopped the debate, but short term gagging of those who want to get at the facts will only make us more determined to find out what on earth is going on within Merseytravel.