Today was the first time that Norfolk County Council has met in full since just after the elections in May.
This lack of democratic accountability is itself a problem: after the elections, we had two meetings in a few weeks so the administration could rush through the next steps on the Norwich Western Link, which I spoke against at the time. Since then they’ve blamed the cost of overrunning building works at County Hall, again which I’ve called out as short-sighted and wasteful in the past.
Today we had a wide ranging agenda, although it was frustrated when the Tories in charge of the council refused to extend the meeting in order to complete its business.
Two items of which I flag specifically for your attention in Melton Constable division:
**Funding for potholes and road safety**
We supported plans to commit an additional £1m to road safety schemes. This more than trebles what has been available in the past for preemptive schemes, and I am awaiting an update on when we will be able to bid for schemes in Melton Constable division.
However, I was distraught that ten times this amount is being committed to tackling potholes. I’m as against potholes as the next road user, and doubtless they affect road safety, but the prioritisation seems wrong to me. A better solution for both would be to adopt the Swedish approach to road accidents: to start from the premise that the only acceptable number of road deaths and injuries is zero – and work back from there, shifting the onus from the individual driver, to a societal responsibility placed upon authorities and manufacturers to design out risks.
As many of you know, I have been looking for ways to promote active living in our villages – in particular since lockdown led to many families looking for walks they could take locally.
Over the summer I went on half a dozen walks, exploring where circular walks have issues or blockages that need fixing. I found that public liability insurance is one of the many barriers that local communities face in establishing permissive path arrangements with local landowners in the absence of Natural England funding. So today, I proposed that Norfolk County Council resolve to investigate the option of providing an insurance-based scheme to cover the unlikely event of claims arising from the use of permissive paths. Sadly the motion didn’t pass but this was just one idea, and I will continue to push ahead with improvements to our local footpaths – repairing obstacles, negotiating with landowners, and improving mapping and signage. Please get in touch if you discover any issues!