‘Jobsworth’ £400 fee hits party spirit

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AN MP has accused Suffolk County Council of being ‘jobsworths’ for charging nearly £400 to a jubilee street party.

Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley was contacted by Amanda Burroughs after she was told it would cost £396 to close Westbury Avenue, in Bury St Edmunds, for the street party they have been planning since January 13.

Mrs Burroughs said: “Everybody thought it was way out of order. You don’t mind a small donation, everybody putting in a couple of quid, but not this.”

Communities minister Eric Pickles wants councils to keep it simple for parties, but Mrs Burroughs said: “This has proved very far from simple. We organised a party 10 years ago and it was no problem.

“Other councils aren’t charging and some are picking up the cost of insurance.”

Suffolk County Council’s street party advice at www.suffolk.gov.uk says where a road is not a through road there is only a £40 application fee to close it. Signs can be collected from county depots for a £50 deposit, refunded on return. But it stresses through roads, like Westbury Avenue, require a diversion that must be signed by an accredited traffic management organisation.

Cllr Guy McGregor, transport county portfolio holder, said:“There has to be charge for people organising events on through roads that require signed diversion routes to be put in place. This has always been the case.”

He said costs could be avoided by using venues that do not disrupt traffic.

But Mr Ruffley said: “I’ve raised this with Eric Pickles because this is nonsense. This is an example of jobsworths stifling neighbourliness and ordinary behaviour. What could be more normal than wanting to celebrate the Queen’s jubilee?”

He said the council had told him they were applying the 2004 Traffic Management Act which he has researched in the House of Commons Library.

“It gives the council the power to charge but not the duty to charge,” he said. “They’re trying to give Mrs Burroughs and me the impression it’s a duty on them and Eric Pickles’ office is looking into that.”