Spotlight to be placed on Leighton-Linslade hot topics of policing, health, pedestrianisation, bypass safety and schools shake-up

Extraordinary meeting has been called for April 4 and will also discuss bus services and Ukraine

By Euan Duncan
Friday, 25th March 2022, 2:59 pm
Updated Monday, 28th March 2022, 11:32 am

The hot topics of police and health hubs for Leighton Buzzard, controversial town centre pedestrianisation, the safety of the Leighton Buzzard southern bypass, and a shake-up of the schools system are among the issues to be debated at an extraordinary meeting of the town council next month.

Town councillor Steve Owen, whose motions have been backed by fellow Lib Dem Cllr Russ Goodchild, has asked for the meeting, which is due to take place next Monday (April 4) at Astral Park Sports & Community Centre from 7.30pm. He considers no progress has been made towards a "police contact hub" promised by the Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Festus Akinbusoye in an election leaflet last year.

Conservative CBC Leighton Buzzard South councillor Amanda Dodwell, also a town councillor, should be asked to brief the town council at a future meeting on her activity as a member of the Bedfordshire Police and Crime Panel to hold the PCC to account for that pledge, according to councillor Owen.

The White House council offices (Photo: Graham Mountford)

He wants the town clerk to write to Chief Constable Garry Forsyth to ask whether a policing plan for the town will be produced which addresses staffing numbers allocated to Leighton-Linslade.

On health, councillor Owen calls for the town council to reject BLMK Clinical Commissioning Group’s allocation of lowest priority to a Leighton-Linslade hub based on current 'spare' space at local surgeries.

He says this is disputed by the town's GPs, and ignores the lengthy travel to hospital distances for 60,000 residents and the unnecessary costs to the taxpayer of basing diagnostic and treatment services there instead of at a local hub.

He fears "CBC health and wellbeing board officers are working on the basis of three unsuitable potential locations for a Leighton-Linslade hub when central locations convenient for residents are available".

Councillor Owen wants LLTC to "regret the action of Leighton-Linslade CBC Conservative councillors David Bowater, Ray Berry, Ewan Wallace, Gordon Perham, Amanda Dodwell, Ken Ferguson and Brian Spurr in voting against a recent motion at CBC from councillors Victoria Harvey and Peter Snelling to promote the Leighton-Linslade health hub".

As for Leighton Buzzard High Street pedestrianisation, he recommends the council notes CBC's failure to use the 18-month period of the June 2020 emergency traffic regulation order to plan and introduce workable solutions for its day-to-day enforcement and for compliance by delivery vehicles. The temporary pedestrianisation ended on March 8, with vehicles and buses now allowed to return on non-market days for the time being.

On the educational reorganisation, based on CBC's Schools for the Future programme, he wants LLTC to call on CBC to share its plans and rationale with parents and the public, with a proposed timeline for the process.

This would include which schools stay open or close, the planned age group, any alterations required with the estimated costs, and the forecast capital receipts of disposal of current sites.

He states that for a "considerable period CBC have held private discussions with Leighton-Linslade schools’ headteachers and governing bodies over a possible re-organisation, but that no public proposals have emerged".

On transport, he asks the town council "to note the comments and complaints from bus users in local media, and to recognise the desirability of a forum to air those remarks and get answers".

Councillor Dodwell said in a letter to the Leighton Buzzard Observer her recent comments about some of these issues "weren't defeatism because nowhere have I said that I won’t continue to echo the voices of local residents and lobby those who can make these decisions to give Leighton Buzzard the services it needs".

The role of the health and wellbeing board and the police and crime panel "is to scrutinise and hold the service provider to account, but neither are decision making bodies", she explained.

"They don't control the budget, they don't have any control or influence over the day-to-day running of either the police service or local health care providers, and therefore can't dictate the service provided.

"We can express our frustrations, we can fight tooth and nail for the town, we can argue for improvements, but without having the power to ‘hire and fire’ or to control the money, we can't make these things happen."

The issue of the bypass safety has been put on the agenda by the council's Conservative leader councillor Steve Jones and councillor Dodwell following a number of recent accidents. One incident resulted in the death of a man in his 20s. A petition entitled ‘Make Leighton Buzzard Bypass Safer’ has now been launched online attracting more than 3,000 signatures in a short space of time.

Their motion reads: "This council welcomes the current urgent safety review into the A505 Leighton Buzzard Southern Bypass currently being undertaken by CBC Highways following the recent flooding and series of accidents and requests that an update be given to the council following its initial findings. In the interim the council requests that temporary signage, lighting and cones continue to be provided at the new Stanbridge Road roundabout until such a time as permanent safety measures are completed."

Also on the agenda, is Ukraine, with councillor Sheona Hemmings (Cons) and councillor Jones calling for a working party to be set up to looking into co-ordinating support efforts - for example, the hosting of refugees in Leighton-Linslade, and if required assisting centralised co-ordination efforts.