COVENTRY City Council has launched an official investigation into allegations that someone within the council doctored legal documents regarding controversial bus lane fines.
Council leader, Coun George Duggins, is meeting with the council’s monitoring officer to discuss claims that someone high up within the council amended the date on official Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) legal documents, obtained by the Coventry Observer, regarding the controversial Warwick Road bus gate.
If the allegations are upheld, it could result in thousands of motorists wrongly fined for using the bus gate getting their money back.
The claims have also led to a fallout among ruling Labour councillors, with Coun Rachel Lancaster sending THIS angry email to Coun John Mutton in the days before it was revealed 13,000 motorists were due refunds from illegal council bus gate fines.
The original Traffic Regulation Order for the Warwick Road bus gate was dated 23/9/13 – the same day as a Public Services Cabinet Meeting chaired by then public services cabinet member Coun Rachel Lancaster which discussed bus gates being installed.
But when a complainant, Richard Heneghan, requested to see the original TRO document, the version he was sent by the council appeared to show the dates had been doctored – the hand-written date being changed from 23/9/13 to 23/9/15.
However, there was no Public Services Cabinet Meeting to discuss bus gates on September 23, 2015.
Concerned Coventrian Mr Heneghan contacted the council to point out the discrepancy in dates – a fact he argues highlights a ‘cover-up’ over the legality of the bus gate.
Mr Heneghan believes someone in Coventry council changed the date to prevent him from uncovering the truth about decisions taken over the Warwick Road bus gate.
He believes the date was doctored to disguise the fact that the TRO made for the Warwick Road bus gate is ‘materially different’ to what the council initially advertised it to be to the public.
If this is the case, he argues the bus gate would be unlawful and could entitle all drivers previously fined for driving through it to a refund – potentially costing the council a fortune.
And while he welcomes the council’s investigation, Mr Heneghan has said he is concerned about a potential ‘whitewash’ of the findings.
Speaking exclusively to the Coventry Observer, he added: “Subsequently, I believe that such an investigation must be conducted by an external party.”
Responding to Mr Heneghan’s claims, cabinet member for city services Coun Jayne Innes said: “Following Mr Heneghan’s latest round of communications, an internal meeting is being arranged to look at these particular issues he raises.
“We won’t be making any further comment until this work has taken place.”
The Coventry Conservatives have hit out at the Labour-run council’s refusal to write to the motorists due refunds after driving through bus gates in the city centre and have tabled a discussion to be held on the matter at tomorrow’s (Tuesday) full council meeting.