Tories let down disabled people by rejecting access review

Cambridge MP Julian Huppert has accused Cambridgeshire County Council’s Conservative Cabinet of letting down disabled people after rejecting calls to put together an action plan to improve disability access across the county.

The review was initiated following County Councillor Kilian Bourke’s discussion with aspiring Paralympic athlete, Rebecca Lawes, who found it difficult to get around Cambridge’s Romsey division.  The review proposed to create a lasting local legacy of the Paralympic Games by improving accessibilty countywide.

The review – (link below) – reported that thinking about disability access had not been “fully mainstreamed” into the council highways department’s provision of services, and that the recently revised Equality Strategy was not likely in itself to lead to significant improvements.

The review proposed to address this by developing a serious of specific proposals, some of which would be free, some cheap, and others expensive; the Council would then decide which to incorporate into a final Action Plan.

But today (Tuesday, March 4) Tories on the county council’s Cabinet “partially accepted” concerns about the Council’s wider Equalities Activities but completely rejected the proposal to create a disability access action plan.

Julian Huppert said: “This is hugely disappointing, especially when the review was clearly constructive and not demanding any funding commitment.

“Disabled people face huge challenges and this review would have given us an insight into the problems they encounter and the policies and funding we need to put in place to help them overcome them.

“But clearly the Tories don’t think this is important. We have lost a genuine opportunity to improve access for disabled residents.”

In Cambridge, Liberal Democrats have launched a campaign, Fix Our Pavements, to improve access for disabled people.

MP Julian Huppert joined Paralympic rowing hopeful, Claire Connon and city and county councillors for a wheelchair journey around the city to see how cracked and broken paving slabs and uneven surfaces are impassable.

Residents have been logging into the website to report dangerous and broken pavements and Julian will be presenting a petition to Cambridgeshire County Council calling for more investment to fix the problems.

Julian said: “I discovered first-hand how positively dangerous some of the pavements in Cambridge are for people in wheelchairs, with pushchairs, partially sighted people and many others, and we are doing everything we can to resolve this situation.

“This review was an opportunity to make sure we keep people safe across our county as a whole by finding out from disabled people first-hand the problems they were facing in their home towns and villages.

“Instead of merely fixing individual problem spots, it would have looked at whether the wider highways and access policies could have been changed – sometimes at little or no cost – to make our built environment more accessible.  Why the Conservatives would be against this is incomprehensible to me.”

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