The Davenport Road Closure Saga Deepens

Leicester City Council might well be a Labour-run Council, but very few residents in our city have any illusions in our city’s politician’s ability or willingness to actually help them. So, while many of the people of Leicester might themselves believe in socialist ideas concerning democracy and collective action, the same cannot be said of our largely useless crop of political representatives, most of whom cannot even spare a few moments to support the ongoing strikes being waged in our city (either in person by attending picket lines or on social media).

Indeed, the low priority with which our city’s Labour councillors have for supporting ongoing strikes can be illustrated by the fact that only two of Leicester’s fifty Labour councillors had the wherewithal to sign a public statement of support for striking workers that was recently publicised by the RMT (see here).

Now providing further proof of why most of our city elected representatives care not a jot about socialist principles, today’s Leicester Mercury (September 1) reported on the City Council’s latest authoritarian actions in an article titled “Residents wake up to city council road blocks.” This article explained how:

“[Council] Contractors turned up in the early hours on Friday, August 26 to put the [concrete] blocks in place [on Davenport Road] as part of a series of experimental closures. The closure should have been in place earlier this year as part of the council’s Safer Streets, Healthier Neighbourhoods scheme but some residents had persistently protested against them, claiming they cause “chaos”.”

As the Mercury article observed, local “protesters have repeatedly complained about the scheme, saying it is detrimental to the residents living there” and many “have signed a petition to the council and held protests in the area, unconvinced that their views will be heard during the trial period.” But the City Council and Evington’s local councillors evidently don’t care too much about genuine democratic processes: something they have demonstrated by their recent actions. (For some background on this matter see my earlier article: “Leicester Labour Councillors send astonishing letter to Evington residents who are protesting against ongoing road closures.”)

Hundreds of frustrated residents, whose road has now been sealed off with three huge concrete blocks, have nevertheless tried their best to get the City Council to reverse their ridiculous commitment to blocking their roads. Thus, at the last full Council meeting (held on July 7) members of the affected community succeeded in lodging two important petitions with the council.

The first petition, which was signed by over 500 people, and was handed in by local campaigner Shah Ali, concluded by suggesting that the Council’s “suggested road changes might “actually cause an increase in pollution, lead to greater risks in public safety and needlessly cause great difficulties to Evington/Goodwood and Leicester residents in general if they are implemented so we urge the council not to proceed with them and instead look at discussing alternative options with the community.”

The second related petition that was filed by Stephen Cooper (with a total of 560 valid signatures) made a number of other valid points, and began in the following terms:

“WE, THE UNDERSIGNED, PETITION LEICESTER CITY COUNCIL to rescind IMMEDIATELY the traffic management measures that were introduced on 8th May 2022 and consult the residents openly about their objectives, the evidence that supported them, the impacts of those measures on residents and alternatives that may be equally or more effective.

“We support the global need to reduce atmospheric pollution and reduce risks to local pedestrians and cyclists but argue that forcing non-ambulant residents to drive up to two miles further on each journey along already-busier roads is not appropriate, particularly in this period of high inflation…”

The City Council was however not in the mood to enter into any democratic discussions with the local community. This was more than demonstrated by the flim-flam answers that Council representatives gave to the concerned residents during the city’s most recent council meeting: an attitude was best exemplified by the useless answer given by the City Mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby, to a question from a member of the public who asked:

“Please provide the Council’s evidence of public support for the traffic restrictions in the Goodwood estate; including the numbers of individual complainants for each problem that the scheme is intended to address set out chronologically within either calendar or financial years?”

The official recorded minutes of this meeting thus noted:

“The City Mayor in response said that there had been a number of pressures put on the Council to make changes in the area, some from ward councillors particularly in 2017, and petitions in 2014 and 2015 demanding that issues be addressed…”

The fact that the City Mayor even thought for a moment that it was sensible to refer to such historic public consultations in order to legitimise the Council’s ongoing efforts to side-line public concerns amply illustrates how out of touch the Council is with democratic processes. Hence as Shah Ali correctly highlighted in a recent social media post (which included a video clip of local campaigners being interviewed about the latest developments for ITV news):

Our campaign against the road block on Davenport road continues – residents of Leicester please share and get involved we have a dictatorial Labour council led by Peter Soulsby with 50 of 52 seats in this city who are so out of touch with local residents and not willing to listen to their electorate”.

ADDITIONAL NOTE

To read my 2016 summary of an independent study undertaken by Professor Gus John that highlighted the antidemocratic nature of City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby’s political leadership in Leicester, see “Will labour councillors fight for democracy? The case of Soulsby Vs the Highfields Community Association.”

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