Tory rebel fights ‘a cut too far’

A CONSERVATIVE councillor who voted against controversial funding cuts for school crossing patrols has branded the move ‘a cut too far’.

Peter Beer, Suffolk county councillor for Great Cornard, was one of seven rebel Tories who voted to save the school crossing budget at a heated meeting on Thursday.

Russell Harsant, Robin Vickery, John Sayers, Chris Punt, Colin Hart and Bill Bishop were the other Conservative councillors who backed the service.

“I am very disappointed with the decision,” he said. “I had to follow my conscience and my heart. This was a cut too far.”

Mr Beer and the other six men supported an amendment, tabled by the council’s Labour group, to keep the patrols and use �229,000 of the council’s contingency funds to support them.

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But the amendment was defeated and the cuts were voted through at the six-hour meeting at Endeavour House in Ipswich.

“If you feel passionate about something, you have to stand up and be counted,” Mr Beer said. “We have allowed ourselves to take the easy way out.” Lollipop men and women had earlier gathered outside the county council’s headquarters to protest at the cuts.

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A 13,000-signature petition had been handed into the council earlier in the month and a further 800 names were added to the fight at the meeting.

Mr Beer said he lived close to a dangerous crossing used by children from three nearby schools and had been swayed by the level of public outcry at the cuts.

Instead of making drastic cuts to the county’s services, Mr Beer said he felt the �230,000 saved through axing school crossing patrols could have been found in other areas.

“It was said some of the savings they were making, they could have looked at cutting some of the expensive staff we have,” he said.

“These are short term measures, it’s not a long-term solution.”

As the responsibility for running school patrols could now pass to voluntary organisations and community groups, Mr Beer has vowed to fund the crossing in Canhams Road with his locality budget for the next year.

But as the cash can only be used to fund the project once, Mr Beer said other ways would need to be found to secure the long-term future of the crossing.

“We need to work harder in the community to find other solutions,” he said.

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