Labour councillors have been accused of getting their priorities wrong after cycle safety and the environment were removed from the remit of council scrutiny committees.

The borough’s approach to transport and environment policy was previously examined by the council’s ‘Housing, Environment, Transport and Community Safety’ committee, made up of seven cross-party councillors.

But a revamp of the scrutiny system has seen transport and environment dropped from the list of topics the committee can investigate. The committee will now be called ‘Housing and Community Safety’, with no responsibility for transport and environment policy.

It has led to concern there will be no place for proper scrutiny of the council’s action on improving cycle safety, recycling or air pollution.

The changes were decided by the Labour chair of the council’s Overview & Scrutiny Committee, who told councillors that transport and environment no longer fit in to the new committee system. Under questioning from Liberal Democrat councillors, he suggested that transport and environment issues could be looked at by his own committee – though opposition councillors have pointed out that none are included in the committee’s workplan for the coming year.

It means that important local issues related to transport and environment won’t be covered by scrutiny committees as a matter of course. Instead they would need to be requested as agenda items by the over-arching Overview & Scrutiny Committee.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Transport Cllr Damian O’Brien, said:

"It’s really disappointing that important topics like cycle safety, air pollution and recycling have been dropped from the remit of council scrutiny committees. It seems like transport and the environment have been forgotten about yet again."

"We’ve had a number of cycling deaths on Southwark’s roads in recent years, so it is really important that councillors are able to examine what the council is doing to make the situation better."

"Labour say transport and environment policy could still be looked at if necessary, yet there are no plans to do so. I hope they will rethink this decision and sense will prevail."

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