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STATEMENT RE COURT OF APPEAL JUDGEMENT Sofia Sheakh 05/04/22


Dear friends - and all those who have supported our legal case, it is with a heavy heart that I must tell you that we have lost our appeal against Lambeth Labour for their failings re Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) relating to the implementation of discriminatory Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs).


Please disseminate my statement far and wide on social media because the voices of the disabled community must be heard above the cycle lobby, selfish affluent residents and those who purport to govern us. The Appeal Court judges broadly agreed with Justice Kerr’s High Court judgement that Covid-19 emergency laws allowed the Council to carry out a poor (barely any) assessment of the likely impact on people with disabilities when implementing LTN Experimental Traffic Orders (which can run for up to 18 months) as, in the context of the Pandemic, it was acceptable for EQIAs to be reviewed on a rolling basis. The courts did not consider that residents had already endured 6 months of Temporary Traffic Orders prior to the ETO. Furthermore, the judges agreed that the Council’s delegated decision maker did not even have to personally ‘look at’ or ‘review’ the Equality Impact Assessments (EqIA) himself but could rely on others to undertake this important role on his behalf. The fact that the Court of Appeal deliberated for almost 3 months shows that this was not a straight forward case and I am afraid that the judgment has grave consequences for all disabled people and others affected by LTNs, as it effectively means Councils can, depending on context and circumstances, put in roadblocks at any time, saying that they are experimental, carry out a basic EQIA, which they can amend as they go along and hold a ‘consultation’ at a later date.


Our barrister has said that ‘they have effectively reduced PSED to zero’ and would like us to take our appeal to the Supreme Court We must first seek permission for this, which we will do as it is a matter of national importance. However, if we are granted permission we will need further community funds, so it is for you all to decide. It may need to be a nationwide campaign. Many of you will know that I only took legal action out of sheer desperation when I realised that the Council was not remotely interested in making any adjustments/mitigations for people with limited mobility and long-term health conditions. As you may remember, the initial focus of the LTNs was to get everyone riding bikes, even those with severe disabilities.


The stress of the last year has taken its toll on my mental health, particularly as I have had to make several aspects of my personal life public and thanks to the Railton LTN, I continuously get caught in traffic wherever I go, which exacerbates my physical symptoms. To compound this, the LTN has effectively made the the road I live on into a huge industrial estate with c180 waste trucks thundering past my home every day, 6 days a week, and industrial vehicles idling outside my home, , all with their associated noise, dust and vibration Lambeth Council have won the legal battle (for now), but the fact they chose to fight this case at all, against me, a disabled Covid coma survivor with a chronic lung condition, and extremely limited mobility shows how morally bankrupt Lambeth Labour leadership has become. I am now liable for the Council’s legal costs of £10,000, and although this is a lot of money to you and I, it is a paltry sum to the Council who have made over £7 million in LTN PCN fines since 2020!


The Council recently announced LTN ‘dispensations’ for Blue Badge holders - we are now allowed to choose a SINGLE roadblock (in the whole of Lambeth) that we would like to drive through, and accessible taxis are allowed through bus gates only. Councillors and officers must think we live very small lives, but then if they really wanted the best for the whole community, they would have taken the concerns of people with mobility impairments (not all of whom have Blue Badges) seriously back in 2020 when they first implemented the scheme


Instead of talking to wide and representative groups of residents and taking advice from a range of disability charities, the Council sought out the views of LTN activists using the Climate Emergency and Pandemic, as a convenient political cover whilst campaigning for the streets they live on to be made ‘no through roads’. I do not believe that it is any coincidence that, at the time of an FOI request in 2020, 16 Councillors (including the then Leader and Deputy Leader of the Council and the Mayor) were living in LTNs or proposed LTNs.


LTNs are not about the Climate Emergency at all - how could they be when 1000s of vehicles are re-routed onto surrounding roads every single day and each driver has to drive more miles, burn more fuel and emit more CO2 whilst navigating their way around the roadblocks? LTNs have compounded the misery of the Pandemic for many and over er the last 20 months, anyone raising concerns about LTNs have been demonised by campaigners and dismissed by Councillors. Many campaigners and prominent LTN beneficiaries have been exposed for racist, misogynistic, and anti-Islamic tweets on social media, and a number have resigned as a result of the views they held.


Labour run Lambeth Council first introduced Temporary Traffic Orders (TTOs) in April 2020 with less than 7 days notice to residents, saying it was to enable ‘social distancing’ during a pandemic. Our barrister has said these had no legal basis whatsoever but at the time residents did not have the legal know-how to challenge them, and everyone was distracted by Covid. They clearly exploited this situation. They then slowly started converting these TTOs into Emergency Traffic Orders (ETOs). These revised Traffic Orders stated that LTNs are more important than individual human rights. The Council admitted in the High Court that Oval Triangle LTN was implemented illegally. With great regret we did not challenge this LTN in the 6-week statutory period due to community financial concerns, so we could not ask the court to remove it. If we had done so, the Oval LTN would have been quashed in June 2021. The Council also quietly introduced the Tulse Hill LTN on 31st December 2021 – without advertising it as required by statutory law and without properly notifying residents and allowing people to incur additional fines as a result. They also did not notify the court or the legal teams, so we were out of time to challenge this.


Sadly, this is typical of Lambeth Labour’s contemptuous behaviour to residents over the last four years. The gloating of some Lambeth Cllrs across social media after their initial high court victory over me, last year was extremely upsetting. The Council has manipulated LTN consultation results, removing 1000s of (negative) responses, conflated the responses of people who live in the Railton LTN area with those travelling through, presumably to obtain a marginally positive outcome – they are refusing to answer FOIs requesting resident only data. Ethnicity data was completely omitted from the Railton LTN survey report (in one of the most ethnically diverse places in the UK) but an FOI response showed a huge over representation of white respondents with people who identified as BAME being generally negative about the scheme.


Ethnic minority traders (especially Windrush businesses in Brixton) suffering because of the ridiculous road closures, have been ignored by the Council, yet they virtue-signal by reviewing racist statues. That is not equality. Public money has been wasted on ventures such as Brixton Pop whilst social housing tenants have been left to suffer for years with issues of mould and leaking roofs. JUST FOUR council houses have been constructed in the last 4 years when 1000 were promised. In short, Lambeth Labour do not represent normal working people, struggling in this most difficult of times. LTNs, which create a situation where the wealthy can own, and store cars in their gated LTN communities AND continue to pollute the poorest on boundary roads, are part of London Labour’s programme of gentrification (which includes building expensive luxury flats, infilling council estates, neglecting council housing), which will no doubt result in working classes and ethnic minorities being priced out of living in inner London but having to commute in to service the needs of those who can afford to live here. I understand that there is now a campaign against diesel drivers which will mainly impact working class tradespeople, who cannot afford to switch.


Finally, you may ask how I feel about this. Words cannot really express the sadness I feel for all those people who will now have to struggle even more from day to day due to this policy. I have always thought the role of those in power is to support and protect the rights of those who need it the most. I’m afraid that I feel completely and utterly let down by our current Lambeth Labour elected representatives. It is also clear to me now that, in the eyes of the councillors who implemented LTNs, that some people are more equal than others. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your financial backing and heartfelt support, and I am sorry not to bring you better news. We as a community, raised over £50,000 and were granted legal aid to fight this case, that says a huge amount about our values as a community and our willingness to call out societal injustice It is always hard to fight the establishment, but in the words of the late Bob Crowe. ‘If you fight, you might lose, but if you never fight you will always lose’


I would hope that now everyone can see Lambeth Labour leadership for what they really are. I hope that this makes Lambeth residents angry and residents across London and other cities angry and cements your understanding that metropolitan Labour Councils generally do not care about those less fortunate or those severely impacted by the Pandemic, and that many (although not all) councillors seem to be in local politics either for self-gain or to implement schemes based on their flawed ideology or both.


My advice to you all is DO NOT VOTE LABOUR MAY 2022


TOGETHER WE STAND, TOGETHER WE FIGHT


Sofia

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