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Transport bosses snub highways forum
4:57pm Monday 29th October 2012 in News
Hertfordshire transport bosses have snubbed plans to launch a new Watford-based political committee to scrutinise decisions and spending on roads in the town.
The move comes after Watford politicians rebelled over Hertfordshire County Council’s decision to axe existing highways panels that gave councillors a chance to grill transport officers over their decisions.
Earlier this year the county council decided to replace the Joint Member Highways panels, on which borough and county councillors sat, with liaison meetings with individual councillors.
Senior politicians at Conservative-controlled county hall have argued the new meetings will be open to the public and not affect the scrutiny process.
However the move has met strong opposition from councillors in the town who say the new system will weaken their ability to hold transport bosses to account. Earlier this month Watford Borough Council voted to set up its own version of the highways panels to carry on scrutinising road decisions.
Yet the new panel will carry little weight unless county council transport officers are present to answer questions.
This week Stuart Pile, the Hertfordshire County Council cabinet member for Highways and Transport, said it was unlikely that transport officers would be attending the new meetings.
He said: "The county council has changed its approach to supporting county councillors so that they can fulfil their role as local members more fully.
"This has led to a change from Highways Joint Member Panels, which involves only a limited number of district or borough councillors, to a Highways Liaison Meeting which involve all district or borough councillors.
"We have become aware of Watford Borough Council's intention to establish a Highways Forum of their own, but we have not been approached to provide officer support for it. "However, the county council is always mindful of making best use of taxpayer-funded resources and it is unlikely that we could justify duplicating officer support for both the inclusive Highways Liaison Meetings and the additional arrangements suggested by the borough."