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Campaigners fighting to save Suffolk services are now in ‘limbo’

PUBLISHED: 14:39 20 April 2011 | UPDATED: 14:56 20 April 2011

New Suffolk County Council leader Mark Bee l

New Suffolk County Council leader Mark Bee l

Archant é 2008

Campaigners fighting to save frontline services in Suffolk have tentatively welcomed the arrival of a new county council’s leader.

Within hours of being elected as the leader of Suffolk County Council on Monday , Mark Bee pledged to save school crossing patrols and slow down the divestment of waste sites and libraries.

The entire school crossing patrol network, libraries in Bungay, Southwold, Oulton Broad in Lowestoft, Eye and Stradbroke, and waste sites in Beccles, Southwold and Brome, near Diss, are among the services facing the axe under the authority’s controversial New Strategic Direction.

While Mr Bee has moved quickly to support the lollipop patrols and other threatened services, campaigners themselves have been cautiously welcoming his promises.

“I’m not getting my hopes up just yet,” said Lian Sheppherd , the crossing assistant who has fronted a fierce campaign to save Suffolk’s patrols.

"I hope it’ll allow us to have a proper evaluation of the service and an open discussion - not an ultimatum."

Pauline Rainton, library campaigner

Mrs Sheppherd, who lives and works in Carlton Colville, Lowestoft, said: “We feel like we’re in limbo. It’s a few weeks until he takes up office and until something certain comes through, nothing has really changed.

“My heart jumped when I read the headlines, but he’s already said he’ll only try and save the patrols they think are necessary. We’ve had no contact from the council whatsoever since the meeting in Ipswich on February 17 - you can imagine how frustrating that’s been. I don’t want to get my hopes up for no reason.”

For Pauline Rainton, who is leading a campaign to save the small library in Oulton Broad, Lowestoft, there are questions over Mr Bee’s long term plan.

“What’s the basis for this sudden change of heart,” she said.

“I’d welcome a rethink, but I hope it’ll allow us to have a proper evaluation of the service and an open discussion - not an ultimatum. We need more than a statement of ‘I’m going to change things, it’s going to be different’. Part of me thinks this is just a stop gap.”

“We’ll wait and see,” said Jaynie Hall , a supporter of Bungay library.

“I’m jumping for joy just yet and we’re not giving up the fight either.”

Mr Bee is standing for re-election to Waveney District Council in next month’s district elections, but will step down as leader at the authority’s annual meeting on May 25 - the day before he officially takes the helm at Endeavour House in Ipswich.

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