Labour - Conservative Transport Feud Intensifies; Exchange Street u-turn the first victim of Transport Committee Abolition

13 Oct 2023
Cllr Judith Lubbock on Exchange Street

Above: Cllr Judith Lubbock on Exchange Street, recently opened up to through-traffic against locals' wishes.

Local Liberal Democrats have reacted with fury at the news that the decision to close Exchange Street to traffic has been scrapped by the Conservative Cabinet member in charge of highways and transport at County Hall, Cllr Graham Plant of Great Yarmouth. The scheme, which was made permanent last year after an initial trial, was deemed to be too difficult to enforce and that keeping it in operation would lead to jams elsewhere and notable disruption", so Cllr Plant used new personal powers to unilaterally shut the scheme down.

Last month, the Transport for Norwich committee, made up of local representatives from Norwich and the surrounding region, was abolished by Cllr Plant after claims that it had become dysfunctional. Decisions will now be made by Cllr Plant in a personal capacity, with only token and optional input from locals should it be requested by Cllr Plant. This change to Exchange Street is the first major use of his personal discretion on Norwich transport matters.

Leader of the Lib Dems on Norfolk County Council, Brian Watkins

Brian Watkins - Eaton

Commenting on these developments, Brian Watkins said:

Decisions on future traffic schemes in Norwich should not taken by one man behind closed doors, but by people who have Norwich's interests at heart, and not by somebody living in Great Yarmouth! There has been absolutely no attempt to consult with anyone on the Exchange Street u-turn, and it makes a mockery of local democracy. The whole things is a mess, and it's important that we should do whatever we can to challenge this decision at the earliest opportunity

Cllr Brian Watkins, Leader of the Lib Dems on Norfolk County Council

An ongoing feud that is damaging Norwich's interests

Exchange Street bares out the new reality for transport in Norwich. Decisions will be made by the unaccountable few, dozens of miles away from the actual impacts.

Cllr Plant justified his decision over TfN in the press by saying that the committee had become dysfunctional, citing an incident in the summer where Labour members instigated a theatrical walk-out in response to a trivial matter of a stand-in chair of the committee. As a result, the meeting was forced to be abandoned and no decisions could be reached.

While he has deplorably overreacted by abolishing Norwich’s voice in its own decision-making, it can't escape people's notice that perhaps he wouldn’t have been able to do so had Labour not handed him the perfect excuse on a plate.

University Ward Spokesperson for the Lib Dems, James Hawketts

University Ward spokesperson James Hawketts said:

Credit where credit is due, I'm happy to see Labour seem as upset by these developments as we are, and that the administration is taking steps to protest them. They can count on our support in doing so. Even so, Labour haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory recently and indeed should be held partially responsible for this unnecessary escalation. Norwich could do without these petty squabbles, and if we elect more Lib Dem councillors next May we'll get a team laser-focused on public service, rather than performative theatre.

University Ward Spokesperson for the Lib Dems, James Hawketts

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