Cabinet member did not mislead committee during Chichester A27 debate

Bob Lanzer, who up until recently was cabinet member for highways and infrastructure. He now manages the corporate relations portfolio at County Hall
Bob Lanzer, who up until recently was cabinet member for highways and infrastructure. He now manages the corporate relations portfolio at County Hall

A claim that a senior councillor ‘misled’ colleagues during a  debate about the A27 Chichester bypass improvement scheme has been dismissed.

Bob Lanzer, who was then cabinet member for highways and infrastructure, addressed a meeting of the environment, communities and fire select committee in June.

The committee had been asked for its recommendations for the scheme before the council sent a submission to the government, asking for inclusion in the roads investment strategy for 2020-2025.

Following the meeting, a member of the public, who was described as a ‘former specialist in transport scheme appraisal’, wrote to Mr Lanzer.

The writer pointed out that some of the terminology used while giving information to the select committee had not been the same as that used by Systra, the consultants appointed by the council to provide technical advice about the scheme.

As such, the writer felt the committee had been ‘misled’.

In July, Mr Lanzer wrote to Andrew Barrett-Miles, chairman of the committee, clarifying his statements and offering members the chance to share any concerns.

The committee met again on September 21 and Mr Lanzer’s letter was shared with members.

Mr Barrett-Miles told the meeting he had discussed the matter with Tony Kershaw, the council’s director of law and assurance, whose view was that Mr Lanzer had not misled the committee and there was no need to take things further.

Mr Barrett-Miles added: “Tony Kershaw wrote to the member of the public along those lines, that what the cabinet member had said was just his interpretation.

“It wasn’t a direct attempt to mislead the committee.”

He told members: “I have great faith in you as the committee that you, having read all the reports, would not have been misled by what was maybe an omission.”

A spokesman for the council confirmed that no complaint had been lodged.

In Mr Lanzer’s letter he said: “For the avoidance of doubt, I would like to clarify two points that appear to have caused some concern and provide the committee with an opportunity to share any concerns

“Firstly, the Systra report points out that despite the mitigation measures included in the Mitigated Northern Route, there will still be some residual impacts. The presence of residual impacts was not mentioned during the officers’ introductory statement on the Mitigated Northern Route. I note that the officers’ report stated in paragraph 4.8 that; ‘The environmental impacts of this option will be significant, even with carefully configured environmental mitigation measures and there may be some challenging business impacts particularly during construction’.

“Secondly, during the debate I referred to the potential for the Benefit to Cost Ratio (BCR) to increase as a result of the additional benefits associated with the Mitigated Northern Route. However, the Systra report indicates that in their view, the changes to the cost of the scheme are unlikely to materially affect the ‘wider value for money’ assessment. The wider value for money assessment would include an economic assessment and monetised BCR but additionally non-monetised wider economic and environmental impacts. Therefore, it would have been more accurate for me to refer to the potential for benefits to increase as part of a wider value for money assessment rather than a BCR.”