THE press and public have been banned from taking part in Redditch’s county highways forum in a move branded by campaigners as outrageous.
The forum, which last year brought the atrocious performance of Diamond Buses to light after members of the public – and the Redditch Standard – were asked to give evidence, has a long history of being held in public.
Until earlier this year it had been chaired by Labour’s then Redditch county councillor Graham Vickery, however he narrowly lost his seat at the elections earlier this year.
Since then Conservative-controlled County Hall has appointed Coun Alan Amos (Con, Bedwardine) as cabinet member for highways with Coun Roger Bennett (Con, Redditch South) taking over the chair of the forum.
The decision was then taken to ban the public from attending the meeting.
“It is absolutely outrageous,” said local resident Philip Blaydon.
“The forum gave members of the public a means of raising general issues to officers and councillors in Redditch town hall and to get an answer.
“The meetings are only held every quarter and I have been pushing to get the dates named but they’ve reluctant to release them.”
County Hall also refused to consider an appeal by Coun Robin Lunn (Lab, Redditch North) to hold at least part of the session in public.
“It’s simply not democratic. As democratically elected members we are accountable to the people and surely we benefit too from giving people the opportunity to air their grievances in public.”
He added that the county council itself had not to his knowledge ever excluded the press and public so it was strange that a quarterly highways forum should be held behind closed doors, however the decision was Coun Amos’s.
“I asked about holding at least part of the meeting in public but this was not acceptable, yet these meetings are about holding people to account,” he said.
Last year the forum, chaired by Coun Vickery, called in the then manager of Diamond Buses to hear a catalogue of complaints from bus users in Redditch.
Since then two managers have departed and the company has made major improvements.
Both councillors Bennett and Amos were unavailable for comment as the Redditch Standard went to press.
The next Redditch highways forum is at 5pm at town hall on Tuesday, September 5.
Redditch Standard Editor Ross Crawford said: “We would have loved to continue bringing you our reports from the Redditch highways forum, but unfortunately we are banned too.
“With decisions made in secret, the losers in this are you, the people of this town.”