Reprieve possible for Lower Thames Crossing Taskforce

The Lower Thames Crossing Taskforce may have won a reprieve from being disbanded after councillors raised concerns.

Thurrock Council proposed disbanding the taskforce, which includes members of the public and an expert consultant to advise the authority on controversial plans for the £10billion crossing linking Essex and Kent.

Under the plans the taskforce, the hidden and extreme harms prevention committee and the local development framework task force would be scrapped and replaced with three new scrutiny committees: people, place and corporate.

At a general services committee meeting on Tuesday, John Kent, leader of the Labour Group, said: “I welcome the move to three scrutiny committees. I am unhappy about ceasing the Lower Thames Crossing Taskforce.

“Lower Thames Crossing is sensitive. It’s incredibly important and it’s the one body we have where members of the public sit alongside members to look at an incredibly delicate and difficult issue and I’m just worried about how it looks and feels to the community if we’re ceasing that one body where they’ve got absolute involvement.”

Lee Watson, Labour councillor for West Thurrock and South Stifford was also concerned at the loss of the taskforce. She said: “That work still needs to be kept on the radar and it still needs to be brought together.”

Councillors heard there was a need for scrutiny committees to deal with some of the bigger issues like the Lower Thames Crossing and it would be included in the remit of a newly formed place scrutiny committee.

Chief executive Dave Smith said: “There may be an option for us to put this to the place scrutiny committee to organise and commit to a taskforce that remains part of the scrutiny committee but operates as a task force within it and replicates the public involvement.”

Andrew Jeffries, leader of the council said such a plan would give the taskforce more authority as it would report back to overview and scrutiny and then the chairman could report to cabinet.

The committee deferred agreeing to disband the taskforce and recommended the future place scrutiny committee should decide on its future in the new municipal year.

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter