‘Change’ pledge from new leader

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SUFFOLK County Council is to change direction following the election of a new leader, who has already pledged to save the controversially axed school crossing patrols.

Mark Bee, 46, was elected leader of the authority’s Conservative group on Monday and is set to become leader at its annual meeting on May 26.

The Beccles councillor has signalled changes in the way the council operates and in a symbolic move has offered a reprieve to the school lollipop service, which was scrapped to save £174,000.

Cllr Bee, who is leader of Waveney District Council, said: “I would like to see them reinstated in the areas where there is high risk and needs to be some cover.

“For the small amount of money that would have been saved, it’s something that can be quite easily reversed.”

As the council aims to make up to £125 million in savings in the next four years, its flagship programme has been the New Strategic Direction (NSD) to find alternative ways to deliver services.

In the run-up to his official appointment, Cllr Bee wants to spend time ‘reviewing and reflecting’ on NSD and how they can look at a ‘more pragmatic way’ of dealing with the county’s financial issues.

He said: “There may be elements of the NSD – we may not necessarily call it that – we keep and there maybe elements we no longer continue with. It’s about a new pragmatic approach.”

When asked about the council’s approach to services, he added: “It’s about spending more time working with communities and interest groups to find alternative ways of running these things.

“We need more time, conversation and dialogue with communities.”

n Bury St Edmunds Town Council has passed a resolution to support the funding of school patrols where necessary but does not want to take on employment responsibilities.