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SALMA DEMANDS RED ROUTE APOLOGY

12-03-2008

Birmingham Councillor Salma Yaqoob is demanding an apology from the city’s Transport boss Len Gregory after he accused her of deceiving colleagues over the controversial Red Route scheme. All the evidence suggests that Gregory is the one whose stories don’t stack up.

Yaqoob has been trying to find out for more than 18 months whether the local authority conducted an Equality Impact Assessment to find out how the Red Route would affect business owners in one of the country’s most deprived wards.

She first raised the issue in a full Council meeting in September 2006. After getting an inconclusive answer, the question was then raised in The Stirrer’s Birmingham Mail column the following month (http://tinyurl.com/2hkdt6).

This drew the somewhat surprising result that Gregory didn’t actually know whether the study had been carried out – his officials were “looking into it” for him.

Fast forward to January 2008, when Yaqoob raised the issue again at full council.

By now Gregory was insisting that not only had equality and economic impact studies been carried out, they were “detailed”. He accused the Respect councillor of deceiving the chamber by daring to suggest they hadn’t been.

Now an email by the city’s regeneration officer Clive Dutton has confirmed that an economic impact assessment wasn’t, in fact, conducted after all. And at yesterday’s Red Route enquiry, a city solicitor insisted there was no need for an equality audit either.

Apparently there’s no need, because the Red Route is a “policy”, not a “project”.

A furious Yaqoob is now demanding that Gregory formally apologise after calling her integrity into question.

She said, “They seem happy to play with semantics, but not address the issue of why the impact of this significant scheme on local traders and residents was not taken into account properly in the planning and evaluation stages.

“It gives the message inner city areas like Sparkbrook, Sparkhill, and Springfield really are not valued by this administration.

“Given the already fragile nature of the economy in these deprived areas this is highly irresponsible in the least, and indicative of a dismissive and contemptuous attitude towards residents and traders in these areas at worst.

”Lessons should be learnt, and a transport scheme designed to take into account the economic and social impact on local people as well as impact on criteria such as journey time.

“Clearly the pilot has not worked in significant sections of the scheme, and in light of the feedback the Council should respond with a tailored proposal, not force through which appears to work on paper but has had a devastating impact on the people in whose area it has been imposed.”

Her response begs the question of what criteria the Red Route is being assessed against, given that it is a “trial”.

What are the markers of success and failure? And where are they published?

The Council surely wouldn't have pressed ahead with a £6.5 million scheme without knowing how to measure it - would they?

And Councillor Gregory most definitely wouldn't have accused Salma of misleading councillors while misleading them himself would he?

Surely not.

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