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Lib Dems call for better disabled access as Paralympic legacy

August 30, 2012 11:00 AM

Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats have called for a major review of disabled access across the county as a lasting legacy of the Paralympics.

They want to see a list drawn up of the most urgent changes and a rolling annual programme of improvements.

This modest programme could be along the lines of the Disabled Access Fund which the Lib Dems have repeatedly proposed in their alternative budget (£250,000 over five years), but they believe a bigger investment may be necessary, depending on the outcome of the review.

Leader of the Lib Dem Opposition, Kilian Bourke, said: "The county council is responsible for disabled access but the level of funding is embarrassingly small."

"It does make minor improvements from time to time but its policy seems to be to fix things whenever they get round to doing other road schemes in the same location, which can result in a long wait.

"The closest thing to a dedicated budget is the 'accessibility budget' of £30,000, which is not specifically for disabled access, and constitutes less than one ten-thousandth of the county's annual spend, while over £1 million continues to be spent on communications and the press office.

"Reviewing disabled access across Cambridgeshire and then taking positive steps to improve it would be a lasting Paralympic legacy that would benefit many lives.

"We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to create this lasting legacy for our county and I hope that we will take it."

Cllr Bourke spoke out after meeting competitive swimmer, Rebecca Lawes as the Paralympic torch came to Romsey. Rebecca hopes to compete in the Paralympics in Rio in 2016.

Lib Dem County Councillor, Ian Manning, who represents Cambridge's East Chesterton ward cited a stretch of the footpath along the River Cam as an area where disabled access needs to be improved.

He said: "This is a beautiful spot but try leaving it to get across Fen Road and you'll find an awkward path, a gate that would be almost impossible to get through with a wheelchair and no dropped kerb.

"I'm afraid this is typical of many areas in my ward. It is just too hard to get around for anyone other than the able bodied. I am planning to put in an Environmental Improvement Programme bid for this area later in the year. But a systematic review is the only way to solve this properly."

County councillor, Sarah Whitebread, who represents Cambridge's Market Ward said: "There are numerous junctions in the city centre that lack dropped kerbs, and this makes life extremely difficult for people in wheelchairs who are often forced to use the road, putting themselves in danger from traffic.

"This is just another case of under-funding from the county council. We see it with so many highways issues and it's frankly unacceptable."