Norfolk County Council blocking Norwich traffic – parts of Tombland are still closed off 35 weeks later. Photo © Julian Swainson 

The Conservative Manifesto for Norwich City Council

Norwich Tories want clean air in the City, they say. They claim that their goal is to make the air quality as good as Coronavirus made it. However they ‘strongly oppose the exclusion of traffic’ in the centre, although nobody has ever proposed this. However, their method is to exclude all but the wealthiest from being able to drive in Norwich, as they propose to introduce a congestion charge for every single road within the inner ring road, charging not just cars but vans, buses and bikes too. They seem a bit confused about how things work, as they demand ‘co-ordinated roadworks’ to avoid the escalation of traffic congestion, although this is now a function entirely controlled by the County Council, who (under the Tories) have taken away all highway control from the City Council. They want more 20mph zones, but propose to remove all the speed bumps which currently enforce these limits.

They claim that if they run the City Council they will get rid of polluting buses and taxis, even though under the (Tory) 1986 bus privatisation laws the City Council has absolutely no power to do this.

The Manifesto complains about trees being felled in the city in Tombland, London Street, St Andrews churchyard and Cathedral Close. I must look for the stumps next time I walk down London Street. The trees in Tombland were chopped down by the County Council, run by…. The Tories! They do not seem to understand the difference between tree maintenance and arbitrary felling. If you compare photos of the city 30 years ago with the same locations today Norwich City Council has in fact an exemplary record of planting trees in the city centre.

The manifesto makes the case for more affordable housing in Norwich. This seems to be at odds with their own government who have relentlessly pushed ‘right-to-buy’ at giveaway prices while constraining the Council’s ability to replace this lost public provision. Overall their housing proposals for Norwich are just as clueless as the free market approach to housing from Tory Government, which has created a generation of young people who never expect to be able to buy their own home.

The Conservative Manifesto for the City bangs on about business, as you might expect, but seems to offer little practical sense. They propose to consolidate shopping into a smaller central core and flog off the rest for housing. They talk about shops and restaurants suffering due to ‘lack of footfall’ during the lockdown, rather missing the point the their own government shut all these businesses by law for the duration of the lockdown as Covid cases soared in the UK.

The Tories propose allowing longer hours for the market to open, while allowing other traders to operate on the streets in direct competition (and contravention of Norwich’s historic market charter). Clearly they have not spoken to existing market traders.

Tacked on to the end of this document are three paragraphs about policing, and their PCC candidate, whose ‘down wiv the kids’ name is Giles Orpen-Smellie. He promises ‘more Police officers on our streets’, which is interesting given that every single Norfolk PCSO has gone under Tory control, although we had 277 of these invaluable ‘eyes and ears’ uniformed staff in Norfolk when Labour were last in Government.

The author of this document talks about the benefits of a ‘Conservative-led’ Council in Norwich, but does not seem to realise that as Norwich votes for a third of its councillors at a time it would take several years to achieve this. A further handicap to their ambitions might be that Tories virtually never get elected in Norwich, with the exception of two rogue County Councillors in Thorpe Hamlet who were elected as Greens then crossed the floor to become Tories.

To summarise the Tory vision for Norwich, they seem to want to cram all the shops into the centre, then charge you to drive in to use them. Heady stuff.

The Conservative Manifesto for Norfolk County Council

Similarly to their City Council Manifesto the Norfolk Tories demonstrate their inclusiveness by another introduction from a white man in a grey suit, in this instance Andrew Proctor, Council Leader (for now) who brought the intellectual heft of years on Broadland Council to County governance.

The County Manifesto says almost nothing about Norwich. It gushes about the ‘Norwich Western Link Road’, the environmentally disastrous proposal to tarmac over a particularly beautiful part of the Wensum Valley which is opposed by the City. Oh, and it refers to the castle ‘Gateway to Medieval England’ project, which seems a rather rude reference to the ambitions of Norwich denizens. Or, as Norwich people call it, ‘buggering about with the castle keep’.

The lack of proofreading does raise some interesting prospects. They talk about a ‘fully duelled’ A47. I rather like the prospect of roadworks involving mortal combat between two heavily armed knights, although I suspect local drivers would prefer to see a fully dualled A47 after years of highway carnage. Norfolk Tories have been promising this for decades. We are still waiting.

The few detailed proposals make various spending promises, although none for Norwich. They talk of a home building programme, despite the fact that housing is a District and City Council responsibility, not a County function.

The Norfolk Tories claim to have a ‘record of sound financial management’. This certainly applies to their own councillor allowances. At the start of the previous administration they awarded themselves a huge 15%+ increase in 2018 while cutting back services to children and disabled people. However they were found to have acted illegally by the high court over their charges to severely disabled people after a costly legal case wasted thousands from Council Tax Payers. No resignations followed this humiliating defeat.
Kings Lynn, Great Yarmouth, Hempnall and Scottow all get a mention, and they are promising a million trees being planted, although they do not say where. Hopefully not in London Street.

To summarise the Tory vision for Norfolk: lots of (unspecified) spending in rural areas, new trees all over the place (except where they will cut them all down for a road in the Wensum Valley), and a lot more detail than the Norwich manifesto offers, but no new promises specific to Norwich.

To round off the confusion in the document it says ‘© subject to copywrite’ on the final page. It is not clear whether they are attempting to claim copyright or just hinting that this is a cut and paste document from Tory head office with ‘insert local bit here’ promises. Do tell us chaps.

I did look at the Conservative Manifesto for Broadland District Council. A bit like that council, it offers very little indeed.

Other manifestos are available.

© Julian Swainson April 2021