East Cambridgeshire District has denied a claim by Liberal Democrats that they were banned from handing out leaflets on Ely Market explaining a new 20mph speed limit proposed for the city.
Cllr Anna Bailey, council leader, said: “Neither I nor any other Conservative councillor at East Cambs has instructed the markets manager to ban Liberal Democrats or anyone else from handing out leaflets on Ely Market.”
At the end of July, a consultation was launched for a 20mph speed limit for the whole of Ely.
It was due to close on 24th August, but following local feedback and the summer holidays, City of Ely Council has extended the consultation period until 21st September 2023.
Lib Dems said the process to introduce 20mph began a year ago, and the designs were shared with all Ely councillors earlier this year.
A party spokesperson said: “So imagine the amazement when on Thursday 24th August, the Ely markets manager, forced Cllr Christine Whelan to leave the marketplace and stop sharing details of the consultation”.
“Liberal Democrat councillors Lorna Dupré, Charlotte Cane, Piers Coutts and Alison and Christine Whelan have been handing out leaflets and talking to residents in Ely Marketplace for the last 2 Thursdays.
“Hundreds of leaflets have been handed out and people spoken to.”
The spokesperson said a number of councillors who have supported them including Conservatives, so the Lib Dems remained surprised that the Conservative controlled district council – who run the market – had stopped them leafleting.
Lib Dems said they had also been told that council leader Anna Bailey “claims not to have heard” about the 20mph consultations prior to them being published by the county council.
Cllr Bailey, in a long post to Ely Traders Facebook page, explained: “The first I heard about the proposed 20mph blanket speed limit for Ely was on 7th August when I was on holiday – I picked it up on an Ely Facebook page run by two local Liberal Democrat councillors.
“I scoured the county council’s social media posts and website, and it was incredibly difficult to find anything about the proposal – there was only one mention of it on the county council’s Facebook posts and it didn’t mention the Ely proposal specifically.”
She added: “As leader of the district council and an Ely resident I was surprised not to have heard about it!
“I contacted the chief executive of the county council on 7th August to tell him of my concerns that the consultation was too short, particularly given that is was being carried out in the summer holidays and did not give enough time for parish councils in particular to be able to respond.
“I also asked officers to tell me how the consultation was being publicised.
“Officers responded by saying they were extending the consultation to 21st September and outlining that they had carried out the statutory requirements for consultation.
“This does not include consulting with the parish councils in the villages around Ely.”
Cllr Bailey said: “I have therefore asked East Cambs officers to consider holding a seminar for East Cambs councillors and local parish councils so that parish councils can properly respond to the consultation.
“The county council would be invited to attend in order to present the proposals and answer questions.”
Lib Dems say they remain surprised that Cllr Bailey was unaware of the proposals.
“The story was shared with the media and appeared on their online and printed versions, as well as on a number of social media posts shortly after being published,” said a spokesperson.
“The formal notice would have been sent to the press prior to the publication. It is also listed on the news section of the City of Ely Council website.
“Surely the ECDC communications department would have picked this up and communicated with Cllr Bailey.
“But Cllr Bailey was unaware and claims that local people are still unaware that this consultation is happening.”
The spokesperson added: “The Liberal Democrats leafleted every house in Ely during the recent election campaign with communication about the 20mph scheme.
“Cllr Bailey, as leader of the council, has responsibility for the markets and therefore the manager preventing leaflets highlighting the consultation from being handed out.”
The scheme is expected to bring safety and air quality improvements and details of why 20mph schemes are being rolled out across the country are available at https://www.20splenty.org/
The Lib Dems say they have reminded East Cambs Council of this.
“As stated at https://www.gov.uk/find-licences/permission-to-distribute-leaflets ‘You do not need permission if the printed material is being distributed for political or religious purposes or other beliefs’”.
You can find more details about the proposal and how to submit comments here
Barry Lonsdale hosts the Ely Traders Association Facebook page.
He said: “Ely Traders Association have had no approach from the Lib Dems on a consultation or the 20mph proposal, but that is not unusual unfortunately since Ely has only Lib Dems representatives on East Cambridgeshire District Council.”
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