Our transport correspondent JEREMY CLACKSON gets up to speed with the latest Judicial Review brought against Croydon Council from a fringe group that is supported by UKIP’s Godfrey “Bongo Bongo Land” Bloom
Croydon faces the threat of a second High Court action against the Labour-run council’s policies.
Tony Newman, the council leader, now has to contend with another potentially expensive (for Council Tax-payers) legal challenge to the 20mph policy which has, falteringly, been rolled out across the borough in the past three years.
One High Court challenge might be regarded as unfortunate for Newman and his clique which control the Town Hall, but with local elections in nine months’ time, two such legal cases could be very embarrassing, as well as costly at the polls.
Peter Morgan, the Coulsdon car-fanatic, appears to be the driving force (geddit?) behind this Judicial Review, with the backing of the UKIP-aligned lobby group the Alliance of British Drivers.
The “entry fee” just to get a Judicial Review to court to challenge a local authority, in terms of initial legal costs, is at least £15,000 – though it is understood that among the ABD’s supporters in the south of the borough are several 4×4 drivers, a few Bentley owners and probably a couple of high-rollers who drive Rollers, all of whom ache for the chance to use fifth gear.
The ABD announced on its website that the court action is going ahead, though sources within the council’s Labour group suggest that their leadership has not seen fit to raise this issue with the rest of their elected councillors.
And in the matter of the 20mph JR, the council is likely to be seen to have created its own problems, having run two different consultation processes in the borough’s northern and southern wards.
The cold hand of Morgan can be seen all over the legal challenge: his correspondence with the council constantly refers to a “blanket 20mph speed limit”, when what is being introduced is no such thing (the 20mph limits are only applied on residential streets).
For his own part, Morgan ran a clumsy and probably illegal online and sticker campaign in the north of Croydon for the first-round of consultations in 2015, but he was unsuccessful in his efforts to block a scheme to get vehicle users to drive a little more considerately on residential streets.
But even in those Labour-supporting areas, the outcome was a close-run thing, so when the 20mph plans were presented in the southern parts of the borough in the past year, the council operated a different consultation process.
Morgan and the ABD’s complaints include accusing the council of “bias” in its handling of the consultation.
The ABD is, at best, a fringe organisation, with links to the far-right.
Its spokesman, Roger Lawson, has gone on national television to vent that “cyclists are a pushy minority”. ABD’s membership numbers make it representative of fewer than 0.01 per cent of British car drivers.
Lawson has also said on TV: “Cyclists are aggressive and dangerous. You don’t get that with drivers.” Seriously.
ABD’s patrons are made up of a few low-rent Tory MPs, plus a couple of UKIP figures, including former MEP Godfrey “Bongo, Bongo Land” Bloom, and Sammy Wilson, a DUP MP from Belfast who believes in creationism.
Morgan, the face of ABD in Croydon, is possibly unique in having been thrown out of two local parties – the Tories and UKIP – in the latter case for being a “disruptive influence”, which by UKIP’s standards must take some doing.
Morgan continues, though, to be a regular at meetings staged by the Kroydon Kommunities Konsortium, another UKIP-dominated klique. The CCC is an organisation which is so toxic that Croydon’s police officers are under orders not to attend its events. Nonetheless, CCC has hung on to thousands of pounds of public money given to it by… Croydon Council, a decision endorsed by Newman’s ward colleague, Hamida Ali.
On the ABD website this week, in their report confirming the Judicial Review on Croydon’s 20mph scheme, Lawson stated, “The ABD supported an active local campaign against the proposals and we have also complained to the council about the defective consultation process.
“The process was changed from one area to another, apparently with the objective of obtaining the desired result, the information provided to residents was biased, the results ignored, and objections not considered properly.”
Somewhat disingenuously, they add: “There are established legal principles about how public consultation should be run to ensure they are fair and unbiased, which is no doubt the basis of the challenge.”
Lawson characterises the 20mph zones as “illogical and unreasonable attacks on car and van drivers in the name of environmental improvement when there will allegedly be negligible advantage but significant costs imposed on drivers”. So not biased at all then.
Whatever the merits, or otherwise, of Morgan and ABD’s case, or the arguments for safer, slower traffic, the timing of this second Judicial Review could still be damaging for Newman and Labour council candidates next May. And the tens of thousands of pounds to defend it will still come out of your Council Tax.
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