Complaints over cycling emails 'binned' by Lancashire County Council leader

Campaigners had called for better cycling provision in a series of standard emails to Lancashire County Council leader Geoff DriverCampaigners had called for better cycling provision in a series of standard emails to Lancashire County Council leader Geoff Driver
Campaigners had called for better cycling provision in a series of standard emails to Lancashire County Council leader Geoff Driver
Five formal complaints have been lodged with Lancashire County Council after its leader said that he had put a series of emails calling for better cycling infrastructure in "the bin”.

The messages were sent at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, requesting improved cycling - and pedestrian - facilities on the region’s roads in order to aid social distancing and increase safety for those travelling by bike or on foot.

They were based on a standard template drawn up by the group Cycling UK - and the majority received a blank email from council leader Geoff Driver in return.

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When Green Party county councillor Gina Dowding - who had herself sent one of the messages - queried what his response was supposed to mean, County Cllr Driver said that he was “far too busy dealing with the effects of Covid-19 to respond to the childish antics of the people who have sent me going on 50 almost identical e-mails on this subject”.

He added that the messages had been “dispatched to the bin”.

At the time of the row in May, County Cllr Driver told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that he had responded to the first email in the series before realising that it was part of a campaign - and added that he had also happily replied to someone who had sent their own personal comments on the issue that did not follow the standard format suggested by Cycling UK.

County Cllr Dowding said that although she had not made an official complaint over the matter, she could understand why others had done so.

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“As leader of the county council, Cllr Driver must expect to get letters and emails from people on a range of topics. It's his duty to respond politely whether he agrees with the content or not.

“I was pretty shocked when he informed me my email had been binned - and when, in fact, I had summarised for him a range of safer travel information that I was copied in to,” County Cllr Dowding said.

West Lancashire borough councillor Jane Thompson was told of the five complaints after submitting a freedom of information request. She said it was “astonishing” that they had not yet been resolved and queried the “rigour and independence of the process” given that the council leader was the subject of the complaints.

County Cllr Driver said he had been “bombarded...with dozens of identical emails at a very busy time".

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“It was an orchestrated, childish campaign. I replied to the first e-mail and then binned the rest.

“As this latest episode perfectly illustrates, in my view the complaints are politically motivated and equally childish, but they will be dealt with through the established procedures which are entirely independent of me or the administration,” he added.

A spokesperson for Lancashire County Council said: "We would clarify that the five complaints received are all about the same issue. This was not about a petition from residents, but rather around Councillor Driver's handling of his receipt of multiple emails with identical content.

"We will, of course, respond to these complaints in due course, but we have had to prioritise our response to the coronavirus crisis. As this is the biggest public health crisis our county has ever faced, and has so far claimed 1,033 lives in our area, we would ask the complainants to bear with us."

The county council’s complaints process involves two “independent persons” who sit on the authority's standards committee, which is otherwise made up of county councillors.

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