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Councillor leaked confidential security information during row over Low Traffic Neighbourhoods

Anti-cycleway campaigner Joanna Biddolph has apologised for potentially putting fellow councillors in danger, a year after a death threat was made against politicians supporting bike lanes and LTNs in Chiswick

A councillor in Chiswick noted for her fierce opposition to cycleways and low traffic neighbourhoods has apologised after leaking confidential information about measures to protect the security of councillors during an anti-LTN demonstration in September 2021.

Joanna Biddolph, a Conservative councillor for the Turnham Green ward (set to become Chiswick Gunnersbury in the upcoming local elections), has been one of the area’s most vociferous opponents of new bike lanes and traffic restrictions.

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In 2018 and 2019, along with fellow Tory councillor Patrick Barr, she led the opposition to the Chiswick High Road section of the now-completed Cycleway 9 from Brentford to Kensington Olympia, claiming it would increase congestion and air pollution and endanger pedestrians, as well as destroying the village atmosphere. 

Biddolph also opposed Hounslow Council’s decision to implement emergency active travel measures and LTNs during the initial stages of the pandemic, accusing the Labour-controlled council of turning Chiswick into “Belfast during the troubles”. 

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In September last year, anti-LTN activists organised a demonstration outside the council’s headquarters at Hounslow House, with the aim of declaring their opposition to the schemes to members of the Overview and Scrutiny committee.

According to the Chiswick Calendar, with tensions running high security officers at Hounslow House decided that, for their own safety, councillors should avoid the demonstrators by entering the building through a side entrance. 

However, information about these safety measures was published on the anti-LTN OneChiswick Facebook group by David Giles, the then-chairman of the Chiswick Riverside Ward Conservatives, who was suspended by the party a month later for describing Hounslow Council as the ‘Brentford Taliban’.

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Giles posted: “LBH security told Councillor Joanna Biddolph last night that councillors will not be allowed to use the main front door of Hounslow House on Thursday. They’ll have to use the side gate to go in through the back door. The side gate is on Bath Road on the Western side of the building next to the entrance to the underground car park.

“This is fine for councillors who arrive by tube at Hounslow Central as they will walk past you. Others might not see you. You might have to be creative about how you look for councillors arriving. You may have difficulty recognising some of them apart from John Todd, Ron Mushiso, Sam Hearn, Gabriella Giles or the other Chiswick Councillors.”

> Police investigate death threat against councillors over low traffic neighbourhoods and cycle lanes 

Giles’ post came less than a year after police investigated a death threat made against councillors who supported LTNs and cycle lanes in Hounslow.

In November 2020 Simon Mabbutt, who had unsuccessfully stood as a UKIP candidate in 2014 in Hounslow’s Chiswick Riverside ward, wrote on Facebook: “The council members who agreed this most pathetic changes which has increased pollution, ruined businesses and KILLED PEOPLE RE EMERGENCY VEHICLES NEED SHOOTING. 

“I AM HAPPY TO PULL THE TRIGGER. They are the biggest imbeciles ever… I think it’s time to find out who and where these imbeciles live.”

The leak, circulated by Giles, was investigated by the council’s principal lawyer, Jayne LaGrua, after a member of the public complained about the post and Biddolph’s conduct. LaGrua found that Biddolph had broken the members’ code of conduct by breaching confidentiality and abusing her position. The matter has now been referred to the Conservative group leader Gerald McGregor.

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Responding to the findings, the Labour MP for Brentford and Isleworth Ruth Cadbury said: “This is shocking behaviour from a senior Conservative councillor. Disclosing security information puts councillors at risk and we have seen the tragic impact this has had on politicians over the last five years.

“This is a shocking breach of the code of conduct and councillor Biddolph should know better. I hope Chiswick Gunnersbury residents will remember this incident when casting their vote in the upcoming Council elections.”

Biddolph has apologised for the leak, telling the Chiswick Calendar: “I accept the deputy monitoring officer’s findings and the recommendation of an informal resolution, specifically that I apologise to the chairman of the overview and scrutiny committee which I have, of course, done.”

Ryan joined as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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