West Norfolk councillor defends budget stance over road crossings

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A Lynn councillor has rejected claims she was holding Norfolk to ransom over cash for pedestrian crossings as county council budget plans were initially rejected yesterday.

Councillors voted by 40 to 36, with one abstention, to block the ruling coalition’s proposals for the forthcoming financial year during a meeting in Norwich.

The vote sparked urgent private talks involving party group leaders, from which an amended budget proposing an extra £500,000 for adult social care services was eventually passed late on Monday afternoon.

During the debate, Clenchwarton and Lynn South representative Alexandra Kemp said she would be opposing the budget because of a lack of funding for road crossings in the county.

Miss Kemp, an independent, has campaigned on the issue since a girl was knocked down close to the Poppyfields estate in West Lynn in October, where there is no pedestrian crossing.

Despite a petition by local people and a traffic survey by roads officials, no funding has so far been found for any improvements.

Her comments provoked an angry response from senior Labour councillor Mick Castle, who was reported to have accused her and another councillor who expressed concerns over an issue in their area of “holding Norfolk to ransom.”

But, speaking to the Lynn News after the vote to reject the budget was taken, Miss Kemp said her decision was “entirely justified.”

She said provision of an extra £6.6 million for the development of the former RAF Coltishall site, which the council bought in 2013, amounted to “speculation” that the authority should not be involved in.

She said: “We are here to do our core business. This is a statutory requirement.

“Norfolk County Council is not building the crossings that families, communities and schools need.”

And she vowed she would not vote for any budget proposal until her concerns were addressed, adding: “If the budget falls, so be it.”

Earlier, two rival amendments to the administration’s budget plans were defeated.

One from the opposition Conservative group, which called for an additional £30 million of savings to be found in the authority’s finances, was defeated by a margin of seven votes, 42 to 35.

The group had proposed to use the money generated from their plan to fund adult social care services and accused the council’s Labour, Liberal Democrat and UKIP administration of not reforming the council’s structures quickly enough.

Meanwhile, a Green amendment calling for a council tax rise of just under two per cent, which they said would put an extra £6 million into the county’s coffers, was defeated with only five councillors voting in favour.

The proposal would have allowed for the highest level of tax increase that a local authority can impose without having to call a referendum.

And they maintained the time had come for the county to ease the impact of service cuts on the people who use them.