Concerns over King’s Dyke crossing oversight

PUBLISHED: 10:14 06 March 2020 | UPDATED: 10:20 06 March 2020

Concerns have been raised about the oversight measures in place for the King’s Dyke crossing scheme.This is an aerial view. Picture: CCC

Concerns have been raised about the oversight measures in place for the King’s Dyke crossing scheme.This is an aerial view. Picture: CCC

Archant

Concerns have been raised about the oversight measures in place for the King’s Dyke crossing scheme.

Liberal Democrat Cllr John Williams has warned a one-party advisory group will mean "there is no critical voice, no critical friend" as the project develops.

He said the same arrangement, with one-party Conservative oversight, was in place for the Ely Bypass project completed in 2018.

In that case costs spiralled by £13 million, taking the final cost to £49 million. Some councillors criticised the decision-making and said the relevant scrutiny committees were not kept informed throughout.

The advisory group for the King's Dyke project, made up of councillors and council officers, receives regular updates from those actively managing the project, on the costs, resource allocations and other key decisions.

The member advisory group has no decision-making powers, according to council papers, but it may make recommendations or bring information to council committees.

The King's Dyke crossing will see a bridge built over the railway line, connecting the A605 between Whittlesey and Peterborough. There are currently long delays caused by the wait at the level crossing.

Cambridgeshire County Council's economy and environment committee voted to confirm the governance structure on Thursday (March 5), but three opposition councillors abstained, including Cllr Williams.

"There is no member of the opposition on the member advisory group, and there is no action to the member advisory group to report to this committee," Cllr Williams warned. "We don't seem to have learned anything from the Ely Bypass."

He added: "I think we are going to end up in the same position that we had in the Ely Bypass, we are going to have members on the advisory group for very good reasons, because they want to represent their local communities, but there is no critical voice, no critical friend on that member advisory group.

"And there is nothing in the terms of reference that says that member advisory group should be called to this committee."

Conservative Cllr David Connor, who will be on the advisory group, rejected Cllr Williams' concerns.

"I take exception to that," he said. "I will come back to you.

"We are working with officers with due diligence here to get the best deal we can. Make no mistake about that.

"I think the governance is just about right."

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Conservative Cllr Steve Tierney said: "I understand councillor Williams' comments and I think they would be fair comments, but if you look at the people involved I don't think there is anything to worry about.

"Looking at the names on this list I don't think you're going to have a shortage of people willing to call out problems."

The committee's chairman, Conservative Cllr Ian Bates, noted the council's chief executive would also be on the project board.

The council says the project "remains on track". Construction is due to start this December, with completion forecast for December 2022.

The county council has already approved a £30 million budget for the scheme, with £5.6million coming from the council and £24.4million from the Combined Authority. Of that, the county council has already committed or spent a total of £9.25million on the King's Dyke crossing scheme, mostly on land purchases, legal fess and design work.

Member advisory group membership for the King's Dyke crossing project:

Chair Gillian Beasley (chief executive)

Cllr. Steve Count (leader of the council)

Cllr. Roger Hickford (deputy leader)

Cllr. Ian Bates (E&E chairman)

Cllr. Chris Boden (leader of Fenland District Council and divisional county councillor for Whittlesey north)

Cllr. David Connor (divisional county councillor for Whittlesey south)

Steve Cox (executive director, place and economy)

Graham Hughes (service director - highways and transport)

Andrew Preston (assistant director, infrastructure and growth - CCC)

Lee Baldry (team leader major projects - CCC)

Sarah Silk (business partner - communications - CCC)

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