Council leader apologises and says schemes have been quickly adapted
Paramedics say that the barriers have delayed them reaching patients. Picture: Christina Fox
It has been revealed that Ealing Council did not consult with London Ambulance Service (LAS) before implementing Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) across the borough.
A formal apology has been issued by the council leader Julian Bell and Mik Sabiers, cabinet member for environment and highways to LAS, local ward councillors and MPs who had been assured that LAS had been consulted.
It is believed the error came to light after Ealing Central and Acton MP, Rupa Huq, wrote to council officers listing a number of concerns she had about LTNs and specifically asking for an assurance that LAS had been asked their views before implementation.
Since the traffic restrictions have been in place there have been a number of incidents in which paramedics have had difficulty getting to patients because they have been unable to get through the barriers. Unlike other emergency services, ambulance staff were not issued with keys to unlock the bollards at the points at which the roads were blocked.
It is understood that the recent announcement that barriers were to be removed at five locations within the LTNs was a response to complaints by about the lack of consultation. LAS staff at Hanwell station had raised concerns about the barriers immediately after implementation but the Council had said that the service had been consulted at head office level.
Cllr Bell wrote to Garrett Emmerson, the chief executive of LAS on 4 September referring to discussions that he said had taken place between officers in Ealing’s Place directorate and the chief operating officer of LAS regarding the LTNs. He states that Ealing consulted with LAS ahead of the introduction of the schemes ‘using the channels requested by LAS’.
The letter continues, “Following that emergency service consultation, we agreed that all filters in the Low Traffic Neighbourhood scheme would include collapsible bollards to allow for emergency service access through them, but no other concerns were raised.”
Cllr Bell tells Mr Emmerson that since the introduction of the LTNs the council had received a number of ‘second-hand reports’ from residents about ambulances being delayed but he denied receiving any direct approaches from the local station about any issues. He informed Mr Emmerson that keys to unlock the bollards had been provided to the local stations and that if there were any further issues he should refer back to him or Gary Alderson, Ealing Council’s Executive Director of Place.
Subsequently it became apparent that no contact was made with any branch for LAS before implementation. Council leader Julian Bell says he was unaware this was the case when he gave assurances that all the emergency services had been consulted and had raised no issues with the schemes. It has been suggested that the error only came to light when council officers sought to confirm consultation had taken place when Rupa Huq asked for details about who had been consulted and when.
A joint statement issued on behalf of Cllr Bell and Cllr Sabiers, cabinet member for environment and highways says, “We know these schemes have generated strong views both for and against. We want to engage with residents and are committed to acting on resident feedback where this can be done without compromising the trial.
“Regrettably, the London Ambulance Service was not consulted at the same time as the Metropolitan Police and the London Fire Brigade. Although delayed, feedback from the London Ambulance Service on all of Ealing’s low traffic neighbourhood schemes including those for two schemes (Loveday Road, LTN 30 and West Ealing North, LTN20 ) due for implementation by the end of September has been given and taken on board. We are reviewing our procedures to ensure this doesn’t happen again. “
The two councillors say that there have been no formal objections to the LTNs by any of the emergency services and the scheme have been updated based on their feedback particularly with the use of cameras. The bollards used London Fire Brigade standard keys which were not available to LAS.
Cllrs Bell and Sabiers add, “We deeply regret this mistake and the council has apologised to the London Ambulance Service. The London Ambulance Service has acknowledged that since this issue came to light the constructive way in which we have engaged with them and taken on board their recommendations could serve as an approach to follow.
“Earlier today we wrote to apologise to local ward councillors and MPs who like us, had understood this had happened, we have also advised them of the actions that have been taken.
There have been calls for the resignation of Julian Bell following this revelation and the emergence of a video of him saying “clearly we want to take advantage of Covid” to gain funding for active travel schemes at a meeting of Labour councillors.
Residents can visit the low traffic neighbourhoods' page of the council’s website for further information on the schemes.
Feedback can be emailed to TrafficNotices@ealing.gov.uk, or posted to the Highways Service, Perceval House, 14-16 Uxbridge Road, W5 2HL, quoting reference ORD XXX.
Two further low traffic neighbourhood schemes are planed for Loveday Road, W13 (LTN 30) and West Ealing North, W13 (LTN 20).
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September 26, 2020