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Complaint against Poole Council - competence of road safety decision making - continued

Cllr Dion,
 
I have for more than 8 years been presenting concerns to a number of Poole and Dorset authorities and it is only the unsatisfactory way in which these have been ignored / dodged that has caused the situation to escalate / deteriorate, and it is not surprising you can detect some considerable frustration in my tone as this continues.
 
What is clear to me is that even now, no one is actually looking at the points I am making, thinking about them and responding to them. My concerns do tend to be correct. Within a few days of you telling us the camera car was for safety, and that no one who obeyed the law would have anything to fear, and me pointing out it will instead be used to make money at every opportunity, a news article was released about a ticket being given to a car that was partway through a maneuver!
 
Please look at any online news item about Poole / Bournemouth Council which accepts comments from the public, if you think I'm abusive you haven't seen anything.
 
 
So the camera car can't tell if vehicle is manouvering or parked, and the simpletons who run the scheme don't know which road is which?
Yet more illogical incompetence from people who draw a wage from our taxes.
 
The learner driver stopped so that the camera car could proceed around him/her. Too bad. If he had had any guts he would have reversed straight into that camera car and put it out of action
 
the whole point is, that you all seem to be forgetting, is that the council has to foot the bill for 30 odd council 'officers' salaries which amount to several million £££££s a year. thats the most important factor and you should all just shut up and pay up.
 
Well said lenny1268, Makes me wonder if the wheel clampers got a job in the council, I though that you are Innocent till proven guilty, Seems that we are all guilty till we prove ourselves innocent. 
 
How much money has the council wasted on this incident. Wages for the driver, use of car, use of video equipment, office staff, computer equipment and postage. Trying to prosecute an innocent person, and getting the details wrong. Did he waste the whole day, or just part of the day. We should fine the council for waste of public funds.
 
Unfortunately we are going to see more and more stories like this as our local Council's ruthlessly pursue their policy of targeting motorists for revenue generation. As such, I fully expect to see more and more double yellow lines painted on our streets where they are not necessary and more camera cars patrolling them.
Why is this happening? Simply that speed cameras are no longer making any money and motorists have got wise to the Police and Dorset Road Safe's policy of targeting them for petty offences like not wearing a seatbelt. The Council's share of Dorset Road Safe's profits are therefore down so they have to think up new ways to shaft us.
 
 
It's not about road safety. It's about replacing lost 'safety camera' revenue.
You are all nit-picking over whether the council should or should not have done this or that in relation to this incident.
You should be stepping back and asking what exactly they are doing to serve the electorate and how do they justify our taxes.
Only in banana republics do people hand over their money to be dumped on from a great height. And then it is usually from the wrong end of a gun.
 
 
The controversy of the Camera Car and unlawfully issued/cancelled tickets is getting very close to maladministration and injustice. That will be up to the Local Government Ombudsman to decide, should anyone complain.
 
 
Cllr Dion has assured us in the Echo only last week that the only drivers who have anything to be worried about regarding the camera car are those who make a deliberate decision to park illegally. She said it and she is the Councillor with responsibility for it so it must be right.
 
 
This is not just me, but the unique thing about me is that when I see a problem, I try to do something about it.
 
I realise the things I'm saying may be hitting nerves but it is nothing compared to the pain of someone in an accident that might not have happened if resources were managed professionally, not to mention all the other good causes deserving of resources that are being cut back.
 
I actually would be very pleased to accept some proper points from the council but I haven't seen any yet, and I have explained in detail why the responses have been unsatisfactory, even if a little heatedly. If I am wrong please tell me why. If there are proper responses then please attempt to provide them, I will recognise them as such and we can move on, but just trying to ignore me is not the way.
 
I will escalate this complaint but I'm not confident that it will result in the change of direction needed, as I'm sure no one will take ownership of the issues, and why would they not if they were proud of their work.
 
You yourself have repeatedly dodged one of my simple points. It is exactly this persistent dodging of dealing with the issues that makes me angry.
 
Please answer this time:

If I inappropriately accused the TAG members of making decisions based on opinion, not proper evidence, it should be easy for you to detail why my criticism of the interpretation of accident data by the officers is incorrect. Please either:

  1. Tell me that you believe the entire 3.9 accident reduction is due to the lights and not at all due to the numerous other factors I have mentioned, in which case, please explain why the other factors could not possibly have reduced accidents, or:
  2. Agree with me that the information provided by the officers was flawed.

If 2 above, please tell me what else was going on in that meeting other than personal opinion.

Otherwise, please agree with me that my concerns about decisions being based on the opinions of a few laypersons are justified. Please stop avoiding this point.

 
Regards, Ian Belchamber

Mr Belchamber, I am sorry but your responses and aggressive attitude and stance here is very disturbing.  Clearly you will never be satisfied with any responses from Councillors or Officers of the Council and you are certainly free to pursue any complaints about members' behaviour to the Standards Committee and take your concerns to the Ombudsman.  It certainly isn't the first time people have challenged the integrity of the Council, both members and officers and, not surprisingly, the Council as a local authority has not been found to be anything other than to be proud of.  
We do understand that some people seem to have a personal issue on which all arguments are based and that nothing we can say or do will appease that, and you are free to have your opinions but if you continue to hurl these abusive and bullying messages to us, i fee it is us that need to pursue action and put a stop to it as it is not something any of us have to put up with and be subjected to. 
 
 
Xena Dion
 
Cllr Xena Dion (Penn Hill Ward)
Portfolio Holder Environment and Consumer Protection,
Local Economy and Transportation
 
(Have you signed up for your green bin?)


From: Ian Belchamber [mailto:ian@belchamber.net]
Sent: Wed 29/02/2012 14:31
To: Marbellys Bayne-Azcarate; Jim Bright
Cc: Xena Dion (Cllr); Stephen Rollo-Smith (Cllr); Elaine Buckley; Julian McLaughlin; BROOKEA@parliament.uk; Philip Eades (Cllr); Martin Baker; Steve Tite; Tony Trent
Subject: Fw: COMPLAINT REVIEW

Dear Mr Bright,
 

I am horrified, but not surprised, to find that as my investigations and complaints progress, I am simply uncovering more and more complacency and incompetence at higher and higher levels. This latest response is quite pitiful in relevance and detail and clearly an attempt to avoid dealing with the issues properly. 

 

  1. “I have reviewed the exchanges of correspondence between you and officers in this matter and I am satisfied that they have provided you with extensive explanations as to the information used.” Yes, I have received (some, not extensive) explanations as to the information used. This is not the point. It is the quality and accuracy of the information that is the point. Either you have not in fact looked at the correspondence between the officers and myself or you have not the faintest idea about what a credible statement concerning the complex issues of road safety should look like. And it does not look like comparing an accident count in one period with another, and saying that the reduction is due entirely to the factor you want it to be in order to try to cover up a mistake you have already made and not at all to the multitude of others. How many times do I have to explain this?

 

  1. “Elected members may use discretion” – Then they should not, certainly not on subjects of road safety and spend of critical money. There are many more demands for road safety resources than can ever be met, if there is a good case for an engineering spend then it should be possible to identify and quantify that case properly. If no proper case can be found, the work should not be done, and the money should be spent on a project that does have a proper case instead. If the work has already been done, a mistake has been made. Mistakes happen, the important thing is to not keep making the same mistakes over and over again, and you achieve this with professional process, and I have NEVER been in any less professional meeting than the TAG meeting I went to and the disasters coming out of Poole Council don’t surprise me.

 

  1. I am not concerned where the failings lie, TAG members, Cabinet, Portfolio Holder etc. etc. my complaint is against the Council as a whole and the council needs to sort it out and it is clearly in the public interest that this is done.

 

  1. I cannot believe that you are suggesting that a complaint against council policies / activities / projects which are clearly NOT in the public interest can only by made by someone directly effected! These are simply further examples of the inevitable bad results coming from road safety spend in Poole. All of these problems should be properly investigated so that, as I have mentioned above, they do not happen again.

 

  1. I see you have not chosen to comment about one councillor in particular, who has demonstrated on many occasions his total unsuitability for this kind of work, but has (quite fittingly perhaps) been chosen to lead Poole TAG meetings, it would be difficult even to make something like this up.

 

 

I cannot believe that YOU can be satisfied with your response and would like to give you the chance to deal with this properly. I will wait a short while for a proper response before passing this to the ombudsman.

 

Regards, Ian Belchamber

 

 

 

(the above was in response to the counncil's letter marked private and confidential, the "stage 2" response)

 

Dear Mr Belchamber

 

As requested in your email below I will arrange for your complaint to be progressed to Stage 2.

 

Your sincerely,

 

Elaine Buckley
Business & Performance Manager
Borough of Poole
e-mail: e.buckley@poole.gov.uk
Tel: (01202 26) 2001

 

From: Ian Belchamber [mailto:ian@belchamber.net]
Sent: 09 February 2012 11:55
To: Elaine Buckley
Cc: Julian McLaughlin; BROOKEA@parliament.uk; Philip Eades (Cllr); Martin Baker; Steve Tite; linday.wilson@poole.gov.uk; Graham Chandler (Cllr); Leslie Burden (Cllr); John Rampton (Cllr); Brian Clements (Cllr); Colin Searle; Tony Trent; Xena Dion (Cllr); Stephen Rollo-Smith (Cllr)
Subject: Re: Complaint 101000275043 - Mr Belchamber

 

Dear Mrs Buckley,

 

Finding something that indicates a "good year" in highly variable data is a bit like looking at a result and deciding which of many factors contributed to it and how much, and picking on the factor which happens to be convenient and ignoring all others, like the statement about reduced accidents at Fleetsbridge due to the lights. And even if the results were consistently good in Poole, it is obviously not proof at all of good practice in decision making, and again I have to continue to point out, there are rarely single factors influencing anything. I'd like to see the information that you have based this statement on in it's context, you may understand that my confidence in Poole reaching correct conclusions from data is not particularly high. 

 

You haven't answered the concerns:

 

1. Poole has still failed to produce a proper, credible statement concerning the accident reduction at Fleetsbridge due to the lights, compared to no lights. The "technical information" we have from those "impartial professional officers" I have shown to be neither impartial nor professional and NO ONE has raised any challenge whatsoever to my points proving this. No one seems to be the slightest bit bothered that the only technical input was completely flawed.

 

2. I am deeply concerned that the "perceptions" of a very few are all that remain and about those who are providing them. I saw no recognition of any points of value in the meeting I attended, for example:

 

- the fact that the only technical input was clearly wrong was completely ignored

- no consideration of the possibility that the root cause of road safety problems is actually bad driving, not lack of lights, etc.

- no awareness that there could be other solutions, i.e. proper policing, which would be likely to have better accident reduction efficiency over a larger area

- no recognition of the negative effects, congestion, etc.

 

I repeat, the only thing I saw that indicated any justification for the presence of the lights was one or 2 people expressing personal opinion and this is NOT how these important decisions should be made.

 

In the meeting I was also shocked to see that one of those few "laypersons" setting road safety policy in Poole is Tony Trent. This is the man who commented on the death of the motorcyclist resulting from the presence of a speed camera "He was travelling at 78MPH in a 50 zone. Enough said." Perhaps we should just shoot everyone who exceeds a speed limit, should we Tony? Would that improve road safety?

 

Tony has put his foot in it over and over again and has demonstrated a mind blowing inability to process evidence and information into meaningful and relevant (and most certainly impartial and professional) conclusions.

You really need to take a look at this and the other documents referenced:

 

 

The fact that Poole has allowed this man to lead meetings on road safety is probably the most absurd thing I have ever come across and proof that Poole is indeed thoroughly misguided in this important responsibility.

 

 

You can probably see that I am totally unsatisfied with your response and I therefore ask you to progress this complaint to stage 2.

 

 

Regards, Ian Belchamber

 

 

Sent: Thursday, February 09, 2012 7:59 AM

Subject: Complaint 101000275043 - Mr Belchamber

 

Dear Mr Belchamber,

Thank you for taking the time to contact us regarding your complaint which was received on 20 January 2012. The issue that you raised was:

 

·        that road safety decision making in Poole shows unacceptable incompetence and lack of care and professionalism and that this is resulting in wasted money and wasted lives.

 

The decision making process is set out in the Councils’ constitution which is available on the website http://www.boroughofpoole.com/your-council/how-the-council-works/the-constitution/

 

Implicit in the democratic process is that decisions are made by elected representatives which are inevitably based on both their own perceptions together with consideration of impartial technical information provided by professional officers.

 

The fact that in 2010 the casualty rate per head of population is below the average for England would contradict your assertion regarding lack of care and professionalism within Poole.  

 

In view of the above, I cannot uphold your complaint.

 

I hope you feel that the issues you raised have been fully and fairly looked into and that you are satisfied with the response in this letter.

If however you are not satisfied, you can progress your complaint to Stage 2 of the Complaint Procedure, where our investigation will be reviewed by a Strategic Director. Please let me know if you wish to progress your complaint to Stage 2.

I would like to thank you for taking the time and trouble to let us know about the issues you have raised. It is important that the people who use the Council’s services are able to comment on them, so that we can continually improve these services provided for the residents and visitors of Poole.

Yours sincerely,

 

 

Elaine Buckley
Business & Performance Manager
Borough of Poole
e-mail: e.buckley@poole.gov.uk
Tel: (01202 26) 2001

 

 

From: Elaine Buckley
Sent: 23 January 2012 15:55
To: 'Ian Belchamber'
Subject: RE: Complaint 101000275043 - Mr Belchamber

 

Dear Mr Belchamber

 

Thank you for taking the time to contact us regarding your complaint which was received on 20 January 2012.  The issue that you raised was:

 

·        that road safety decision making in Poole shows unacceptable incompetence and lack of care and professionalism and that this is resulting in wasted money and wasted lives.

 

Your complaint has been allocated the following reference number which you can use for all future contact with the Council relating to this matter - 101000275043. A copy of the Council's Complaint Procedure can be found on our website.

 

We aim to respond to complaints within 15 working days of receipt unless it is a particularly complex matter.  In such circumstances, we will write to inform you of the revised response date.

 

In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of any further assistance.

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

Elaine Buckley

Complaints Officer

Transportation Services

 

 

 

We can give you help to read
or understand this information

(01202) 262001

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From: Ian Belchamber [mailto:ian@belchamber.net]
Sent: 19 January 2012 19:58
To: Elaine Buckley
Cc: Julian McLaughlin; Tony Trent (Cllr); BROOKEA@parliament.uk; Philip Eades (Cllr); Martin Baker; Steve Tite; Xena Dion (Cllr); Elaine Buckley; linday.wilson@poole.gov.uk; Graham Chandler (Cllr); Leslie Burden (Cllr); Stephen Rollo-Smith (Cllr); John Rampton (Cllr); Brian Clements (Cllr); info@imanuelgoncalves.co.uk
Subject: Re: Complaint 101000265240 - Mr Belchamber

 

Dear Mrs Buckley,

 

Thanks for letting me know about the meeting which I attended today, and presented to. Unfortunately this has only confirmed and deepened my concerns about the quality of decision making in Poole on road safety.

 

I presented reasoning that showed that the justification of the council, that accidents had reduced from 6.6 to 2.7, due to the lights, could not have been more wrong. There was no response on this, only a couple of councillors stating that they had nearly had accidents on the roundabout while the lights were off. The entire remaining arguments (cyclist vulnerability, costs, etc) are void if the lights do not actually reduce, and possibly even increase, accidents, and my suggestion that this is in fact the case was just ignored.

 

Surely I don't need to explain that we need better reasoning behind road safety decisions than whether or not one or two councillors nearly have accidents, but this is all that seems to be remaining.

 

In the previous item, calming on the Lilliput Road, the true horror of widespread appalling driving was yet again realised, with residents describing large numbers of accidents on a residential road with speeds of 50, 60 or more not uncommon, where a wall has been hit a number of times and even bricks flying into a property.

 

The suggestion from the council - perhaps a bit of red paint and get Dorset Road Safe there to monitor some speeds. Sometimes I actually think that some of these councillors really are naive enough to think that determined dangerous speeders are stupid enough not to slow down when they see fluorescent safety jackets or stripy vans etc. 

 

Anyone who has a clue about measuring things knows that it's a nonsense if the action of measuring influences what is being measured - a bit like traffic surveys causing traffic gridlock - you just couldn't make it up.

 

Or that some chav showing off to his mate is going to see some red paint and think "oh, red paint, I better slow down". He's more likely to discover it makes his tyres squeal more and make him go faster.

 

Meanwhile, on proper dual carriageways tens of thousands of normal, safe drivers are being targeted by Dorset Road Safe for tiny amounts above limits that have been reduced so low that they simply can't be taken seriously and well below the natural safe and design speed for the road. As these interventions have negative effects and virtually no positive effects on safety, they cause more accidents than they save, including the death of a motorcyclist last year. The full list of negative effects and evidence is available here: http://www.dorsetspeed.org.uk/news/neg.aspx

 

Dorset Road Safe have behaved appallingly since they started and are only continuing by refusing to communicate.

 

Dorset Police have refused to tell me where the money (£2 million or so just last year) from courses goes.

 

The whole thing stinks and accidents and road deaths are way above where they should be because of it.

 

The answer as always is provided by common sense - any penny we have must be spent on proper policing of which we currently have non, which will bring benefits everywhere, not trying to idiot proof a roundabout here or a bend there - or paying for loads of jobsworths sending out as many fines as they possibly can in order to keep their jobs.

 

I'll leave it at that for now but there's plenty more.

 

So I am already working on a complaint about Dorset Police (I've virtually given up with Dorset Road Safe) and I ask that my complaint about Poole Council be progressed.

 

The complaint is that road safety decision making in Poole shows unacceptable incompetence and lack of care and professionalism and that this is resulting in wasted money and wasted lives. This is reinforced in total clarity by my experience at the TAG meeting today.

 

Please can you acknowledge this and confirm what the next step will be.

 

Regards, Ian Belchamber.

 

ps. My notes on my presentation today are below:

 

I’m Ian Belchamber from road safety group Dorset Speed and I’m interested in this because it does seem to demonstrate the poor analysis / decision making on road safety that I believe has been going on in the area for a very long time. 3 minutes is not long so I’d like to talk just about the claimed reduction in accident counts and costs of having the lights against not having them, which seems to be the primary justification and on which the other claimed benefits depend.

When the full time lights were first installed in 1993, accidents increased. The report suggest this is due to increased volumes including around the new Tescos. But if so, why do we not have higher rates now as volumes could only have increased from 1995 and we have had the same full time lights?

In 2000 the lights were set back to full time from part time. We would expect, if nothing else had changed, for the counts to be roughly the same as they were (8.8) before the part time operation or higher due to higher volumes, but no, for some reason they dropped to 2.7. Why this greater drop than expected? Did anything else change that might have caused it?  In appendix C you will see the answer: at the same time as the lights were switched back to full time, “ADDITIONAL LANE MARKINGS WERE ADDED TO CLARIFY MOVEMENTS ACROSS THE JUNCTION”

Therefore the only interpretation that fits with the engineering and accident count changes is as follows:

The lights in the first 7 years of operation (part time or otherwise) caused an extra 36 accidents approximately costing about £2.5M

It was then the change in road markings that caused the reduction in 2000. This dwarfed any effects of the lights by CLARIFYING MOVEMENTS ACROSS THE JUNCTION. If it was due to full time lights, we should have also seen similar reduction when the lights were first introduced, but we saw an increase.

And there are other things such as:

-Questionable reporting accuracy

-Dorset Road Safe would be keen to tell us that they have reduced accidents substantially. Why have the council not put down part of the reduction to this?

-If you “idiot proof” one section of road partly by causing artificial congestion some accidents are simply moved somewhere else, they are not reduced.

-There has been downward trend over the entire period which has obviously reduced the 2.7 figure compared to the earlier figures.

I don’t put this forward as a definite explanation of what has happened because even though it seems more scientifically credible I know as a scientist that there are vast numbers of other variables that make any conclusion difficult – but it should now be obvious that there is one thing that is totally 100% crystal clear.

The lights alone have not reduced accidents by 3.9 and seem very likely to have increased them, and anyone claiming a 3.9 reduction in accident counts, and a £266k cost reduction from full time lights, and nothing else, should not be let anywhere near any decisions on public spend or road safety.

The Fleetsbridge fiasco seems now to be just one of many unpopular, expensive, anti productive and sometimes dangerous interfering with the roads, such as ridiculous speed limit reductions and speed bumps, spend on Dorset Road Safe without whom 1 road death last year would not have happened.

The council needs to use science and common sense in such decisions, not just spend money apparently without thinking and then try to ignore it or justify it with embarrassingly flawed interpretation when challenged.

Other points:

The report mentions cyclists: How many cyclists have been involved in accidents at this roundabout? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cyclist on this roundabout but why would there be – there are safe cycle paths, pavements, underpasses, and barriers.

“Anecdotal evidence indicates that less confident drivers, together with HGVs entering the junction during periods of high vehicle flows, are disadvantaged when the signals are not working.”: At give way roundabouts, you have to give way and then proceed when there is space. If you are not confident enough to do this safely, you need some driver training, and the accident that the lights prevented you from having (if they did) here will just happen somewhere else. I’d prefer to be behind an HGV waiting for a gap, than sitting at a red light just looking at a gap. 

On Costs: Yes, it might be expensive to remove the lights now but if they had never been installed we would have saved the entire initial cost, and cost of maintenance and replacement, and it seems, the cost of many accidents.

Cost per death are made up mostly of a financial amount put on the “human costs” which is obsurd, and “lost output” which is a nonsense as output is determined by demand, not availability of labour. No one pays this money.

I have shown that the council have first decided that they should put lights at Fleetsbridge, and have produced a totally fudged justification now that they have been challenged.

Poor road safety decisions are wasting money and costing lives.

 

 

Sent: Wednesday, December 14, 2011 2:33 PM

Subject: Complaint 101000265240 - Mr Belchamber

 

 Dear Mr Belchamber

Thank you for taking the time to contact us regarding your complaint which was received yesterday.

As a result of a public petition, the Fleetsbridge Traffic Lights are to be considered at the Transportation Advisory Group meeting to be held on 19 January at 09:30 to 12:00 in the Committee Suite, Civic Centre. 

The meeting is open to the public and there is no need for people wishing to attend to confirm this.  However, if you intend to address the meeting you must contact Louise Saill louise.saill@poole.gov.uk or telephone her on 01202 633031.  Alternatively, minutes of the meeting will be published on-line on www.boroughofpoole.com.

As the subject of your complaint is to be dealt with at the Committee meeting, it would be untimely to respond at this time.

If you are not satisfied with this response, you can progress your complaint to Stage 2 of the Complaint Procedure, where my reply will be reviewed by a Strategic Director.  Please let me know if you wish to progress your complaint to Stage 2. 

I would like to thank you for taking the time and trouble to let us know about the issues you have raised.  It is important that the people who use the Council’s services are able to comment on them, so that we can continually improve these services provided for the residents and visitors of Poole.

Your sincerely

Elaine Buckley

Business & Performance Manager

Borough of Poole

e-mail: e.buckley@poole.gov.uk

Tel: (01202 26) 2001