Highways councillor Andrew Gant steps down from city role

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A city councillor is giving up some duties to focus on his “very demanding” new role of overseeing highways for Oxfordshire County Council.

Andrew Gant has stepped down as leader of the Liberal Democrat group but insisted he will not be quitting Oxford City Council entirely.

He said he would instead be focusing on his “demanding and challenging” new role as OCC cabinet member for highways management – which includes the implementation of the controversial low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs).

Mr Gant said: “The reason is, I have done it for six years and we have a new generation of councillors ready to take on the challenge.”

READ ALSO: Highways boss pledges to keep replacing vandalised LTN bollards

But he added: “The more immediate reason is that I was elected to the county council in May 2021 and in May this year I was elected to the cabinet with a very demanding portfolio for Highways Management and I want to concentrate my time and energy on that.”

Cllr Dr Christopher Smowton has been elected as the new group leader of the Liberal Democrats and leader of the opposition on the city council.

In a statement Mr Gant said: “It has been an honour and a pleasure to lead such a talented and committed group of colleagues for six years.

“Liberal Democrats now have more councillors than any other party in Oxfordshire, lead four of the county’s six councils (from none just three years ago) and lead the opposition on the other two.

“It is the right moment for me to focus on my new role helping to deliver the principles of the Oxfordshire Fair Deal Alliance which leads the county, in cooperation with colleagues in all councils and across the county.

“At the city, I look forward very much to supporting Cllr Dr Christopher Smowton as the new group leader from the back benches.”

Mr Smowton said he was “enormously looking forward to continuing Andrew’s excellent work”.

READ ALSO: Oxford Bus Company admits LTNs are impacting services

He said: “We need a strong opposition group on our city council to hold Labour to account and ensure the significant changes coming to our city in the next few years deliver for all our residents. I’m very grateful that my colleagues have given me the opportunity to spearhead that effort.”

Mr Gant has urged people to give the divisive East Oxford low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) time to settle but pledged the county council would replace any bollards that are vandalised.

Oxfordshire County Council implemented three trial LTN areas in east Oxford three weeks ago with planters and bollards installed to close some roads to all through traffic, apart from emergency vehicles and waste services traffic.

The council said the aim of the measures is to improve road safety and air quality, reduce congestion and encourage walking and cycling as an alternative to car travel.