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Council bosses grilled over 'shameful' handling of rickshaws saga

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: January 26, 2013

Cheltenham Borough Council.jpg

Cheltenham Borough Council

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THE lengthy delay in deciding whether to allow rickshaws on Cheltenham streets has been criticised as 'local government at its worst.'

The borough council's Liberal Democrat cabinet decided last year to defer their decision on bringing the pedi-cabs to the town until the publication of a safety and guidance report by the Law Commission later this year.

But unhappy Conservatives on the authority have now told their counterparts to stop sitting on the fence.

James Meyer, pictured, is one of the people behind Rickshaw Revolution, the company hoping to run the scheme.

He told members of the overview and scrutiny committee this week that he was appalled by the delay.

"This has been my first experience with local government and my view is that this is local government at its very worst," he said.

"It has been demoralising and an upsetting experience. I wanted to do something that would be good for Cheltenham and I have found there to be a great deal of downright obstructiveness.

"It has taken 10 months for the cabinet to defer its decision. How feeble is that? This has been shameful."

Concerns over safety and licensing problems caused by outdated and ill-fitting legislation have been cited as reasons for waiting for the new guidance.

Councillor Rob Garnham (C, Park) who was one of the members to call in the decision, said: "It could be another five years after the Law Commission's report comes out before anything becomes law and I don't think that is fair.

"Let's at least tell someone yes or no, rather than keep leaving it until the future."

The committee has now recommended that the cabinet should look at its decision again and give a more concrete answer.

Councillor Peter Jeffries (LD, Springbank), cabinet member for housing and safety, defended the cabinet's original decision.

He said evaluating the safety of the pedi-cabs was a judgement call.

"Is the desired outcome correct? I think it is. We have looked at this from the public safety aspect," he said.

Councillor Klara Sudbury (LD, College) said the way the overview and scrutiny committee meeting was handled as "an absolute shambles".

Letters, P8 and Nostalgia P25

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10 comments

  • buffersyeoman  |  January 28 2013, 9:02AM

    Another report, working party, steering committee , health and safety group. Can I suggest that this rather useless CBC phone and ask the City of London councils if they could borrow their reports relating to this issue! Rickshaws are in use in our capital city with no particular problem, oh! no, that will not suffice this pathetic council and it's members, oh! no, we need to spend and waste council tax payers money on an issue that has already been sorted. CBC obviously need to have a few jollies and away days to have a look at a system that works and see how they can make it not work!! Come on boys, let's waste more money!

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  • daniboy72  |  January 27 2013, 12:03PM

    This is a Council which grants hackney plates to every applicant, no matter how inept, and does precisely nothing to protect the public from the demonstrable and proven dangers of bicycles on pavements and pedestrian zones, yet it attempts to strangle at birth a new, enterprising, ecologically sound business on the entirely hypothetical grounds of public safety. Of some 2,000,000 rickshaw journeys in London, not one has resulted in injury to the public or to passengers. Hereford, York and many other towns have embraced rickshaw services as a small, charming, harmless and agreeable addition to the facilities available to tourists, lovers, newlyweds, the aged and infirm etc. Only neophobic Cheltenham, on precisely no empirical evidence (which is why they have deferred a decision. They could quite reasonably expect to be sued for so whimsical a restraint of trade) have seen fit to place bureaucratic obstacles in this well-natured toddler's way. Leadership requires decisiveness and imagination. Licensing showed that it possessed both by drafting terms on which rickshaws might be licensed (a rare pat on the back for Louis Krog).The Borough Council Cabinet, however, in the form of Cllor Peter Jeffries, who, to be suitably deferential, drivelled and blustered at the Overview and Scrutiny meeting on Monday) has shown itself devoid of both. As for whether the enterprise will prove profitable, that is the concern of the operators alone.

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  • gallopingbear  |  January 27 2013, 11:22AM

    "is the desired outcome correct? I think so." What outcome? They decided not to decide?

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  • OnTheSofa  |  January 27 2013, 9:35AM

    jeepers - more comedy gold in the comments: so they might get wet - hardly a safety issue. so the routes might not be that picturesque - nope, that's not a safety issue either. hmm - clogging up the roads? might even improve safety by slowing the loonies down. east european immigrants? LOL - not sure that's a safety issue. in fact, if they're employed to do it i'd expect a better service than the standard feckless brit. nope, can't see the safety issue myself but if it were my business idea i'd have long since given up and tried something different.

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  • thomas1996  |  January 26 2013, 9:34PM

    The council were right delaying a decision, probably a polite way of saying "no chance" - What a white elephant it would become, imagine the rickshaws were parked up in Cheltenham's only really suitable touristy nice street, The Promenade, it's pouring with rain so where would it be kept undercover to avoid it being soaked for the next fare? And after the rickshaw has been up & down the Prom a few times getting in everyone's way where else would it take the eager tourists... ...See all the nice shops waiting in traffic along Lower High Street? ...Travel to that retail wasteland also known as 'The Brewery'? ...To view the lack of activity in the long, long awaited improvements at Boots corner? ...Run over a few children on the paths of Pitville park? ...Visit the empty shops at Beechwood Place? ...See the queues of people trying to buy their reasonably priced lunch at Greggs or Subway?

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  • Dave_t10  |  January 26 2013, 7:42PM

    I can't think what is taking them so long to just say NO we don't want or need this **** clogging up our roads! As a one-off like Gold cup week then great. The rest of the year it's all a bit pointless and will only end up being ridden by eastern european immigrants - no doubt with no insurance.

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  • TimMessanger  |  January 26 2013, 1:04PM

    I want to be stuck behind one of them as they climb upto Montpelier with the rest of the town wide gridlock caused.

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  • Shireresident  |  January 26 2013, 12:37PM

    Storm in a teacup time. Useing overblown adjectives like "shameful" seems a little over the top. Now shameful would be the problems with waste collection and cuts to important services not holding up a rather gimcrac notion that rather reminds me of the old Noddy Train.

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  • Areaman  |  January 26 2013, 9:26AM

    NibNobs - you aren't paying for it, why do you care? Its a crying shame to see someone's small business strangled by bureaucracy - you have to wonder how many others in Cheltenham suffer the same fate.

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  • NibNobs  |  January 26 2013, 9:13AM

    But it would have only made money once a year on Gold Cup week in March and only if the weather was nice. I can't see local shoppers using it unless it was free. I suggest it might work somewhere like Oxford where there are year-long tourists, cycle lanes everywhere and plenty of rich foreign parents coming to see their kids at Uni.

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