Suffolk: Speed limit row prompts council walkout

OPPOSITION councillors stormed out of a debate in a row over the state of democracy at the Suffolk County Council.

Liberal Democrat and Labour councillors were joined by independent councillor Trevor Beckwith and UKIP member Bill Mountfield after a row over an amendment.

The row blew up as the council debated a motion put down by Green group leader Mark Ereira calling for it to help communities that wanted to introduce 20mph speed limits.

The ruling Conservative administration put down an amendment to the motion supporting the “20s Plenty” campaign – which is not enforceable – and supporting lower speed limits where they meet the right criteria.

Opposition councillors claimed this represented a negation of the basic motion – which is against standing orders – and when council chairman Jeremy Pembroke allowed the amendment, Labour leader Sandy Martin prompted the walkout.

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Mr Ereira and his part colleague Andrew Stringer remained in the chamber as Conservatives spoke in support of the amendment.

Afterwards Mr Martin said: “There is very little that an opposition can do when 55 of the 75 seats are held by the administration – but taking part in debates at full council and scrutiny is one way we can make our voice heard.

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“But by using procedural devices like this, the administration is stifling debate.”

Conservative councillors were pointing out that there are elections for the county council next May – and suspected the move was a political move.

A statement issued by Tory transport spokesman Guy McGregor labelled the walkout “childish” while deputy council leader Jane Storey dismissed the claims that the county was anti-democratic.

“If that was the case we would have all just voted and walked out after they pulled their stunt, but we stayed and talked about the issue for more than half an hour,” she added.

The administration’s amendment was overwhelmingly carried – backing its current policy on 20mph limits.

Mr Ereira said his proposal would have given local communities much more power to introduce lower limits if they felt they were necessary.

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