Campaign groups ‘disappointed’ as ombudsman won’t investigate accessibility case

Better Streets for Havering and Havering Cyclists went to the Local Government Ombudsman as they urged the council to remove a range of physical barriers across the borough. 

The issue ended up on the ombudsman’s desk as the groups were “unsatisfied” with responses from the council’s chief executive, Andrew Blake-Herbert, to their letters highlighting obstacles such as narrow gates which they claimed were affecting the accessibility of public spaces. 

In one of his replies, Mr Blake-Herbert said that while the council will make “every effort” to ensure spaces are accessible, barriers that have been installed are due to a need to “avoid anti-social behaviour occurring in parks” and ensure the spaces remain safe. 

In his summary, the ombudsman wrote he decided not to take on the case as he is “satisfied that it [Havering Council] has addressed how it plans to deal with the matter raised”. 

These included the council saying it has applied for additional funding for amendments to infrastructure, it is developing a walking and cycling strategy, it is consulting with stakeholders while the new strategy is being developed, and that any new design guidance will be considered when implementing potential changes. 

A joint statement published by the two campaign groups said they are “disappointed with the outcome”, though they “understand the ombudsman’s position”. 

Referencing the list of measures the council is undertaking, they said: “We hope Mr Blake-Herbert notes this comment and has it in mind in terms of the timescales within which this strategy is published and the quality of its position on the barriers.” 

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The statement adds the groups will “now consider our next steps”. 

“Until and unless it (the council) can tackle what is a simple policy issue with low-cost remedies, it cannot possibly be taken seriously on matters such as equality, climate change and transport resilience.” 

Havering Council was approached for comment. 

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