Islington’s £1m road layout fiasco

Islington Council will have to repay motorists a huge amount in compensation over a bungled road layout scheme. It has apparently caused a number of accidents, including three in which vehicles over-turned while trying to negotiate it.

The scheme has attracted a large number of complaints from local residents, and has already cost local taxpayers some £110,000 including revisions. Apart from the accident toll, it seems that technical failures by Islington Council will also lead to over 10,000 traffic fines illegally issued between November last year and February having to be repaid at a cost of up to £1 million. Opposition councillors have called for the scheme to be scrapped.

The road width restriction in Drayton Park, near where I live in Highbury, first came to my notice early last year while it was being built. Not long after I saw that it had been comprehensively demolished and rebuilt with a different layout a short while later. Residents suspected that this indecision and inconvenience must have wasted taxpayers' money.

Islington Council released two internal reports after a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, but they seemed to raise more questions than they answered.

Apparently, the cost of the initial construction had been estimated at £80,000. But strangely, the cost of revision, which involved both the demolition and reconstruction of the restriction according to a new design, was estimated in the second report at only £29,000. It's hard to decipher how something which requires a great deal more work can cost only just over a third of the original estimate.

The second report showed that the design revision had taken place at the instigation of two groups, the Islington Cyclists’ Action Group (ICAG) and SusTrans, with the latter apparently threatening to withdraw its funding of the Connect2 cycle route scheme unless the design was changed.

A second FOI request was sent to the Council asking for details of how much SusTrans had pledged to the Council for this particular Connect2 route and/or any other route in the borough. The reply from the Council’s Finance Department was that SusTrans had granted the Islington Connect2 scheme £600,000 for 2012-13, but that this came with a proviso that funding could be withdrawn if SusTrans disapproved of any aspect of a particular scheme delivered by the Council. In this case, that is exactly what happened.

So, who did actually pay for the ‘revision’ of this costly and wasteful scheme? SusTrans, which in part is funded by significant amounts of taxpayers’ money from the Department of Transport and the European Union? Or did the money come directly from Islington Council Tax payers? Either way, one can’t help but question the propriety of the Council’s relationship with the groups in question. They seem able to effectively hold the Council to ransom to get their way. It's Islington's taxpayers and motorists who suffer as a result.

Henry Zarb

Islington TaxPayers’ Alliance

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