Ex-MP slams city's war memorial

Former war reporter and ex-MP Martin Bell has criticised the state of Norwich's war memorial, claiming you would have to go to war-torn Iraq to find one in worse condition.

Former war reporter and ex-MP Martin Bell has criticised the state of Norwich's war memorial, claiming you would have to go to war-torn Iraq to find one in worse condition.

Mr Bell, a former BBC foreign correspondent and son of the late EDP columnist and author Adrian Bell, made the scathing comments during a visit to the city.

He criticised Norwich City Council for failing to renovate the memorial, which stands in front of City Hall. It has been boarded-up because the council is waiting for the money to be made available for the work.

Mr Bell, now an ambassador for children's charity UNICEF, said: “To go to a war memorial in a state like that you would have to go to Iraq. I found it was closed and in a state of disrepair and dishevelment.

“Of all the public places in Norwich it should be the one people take most care of. I was really shocked to find the state it was in and it is in the heart of the city.”

Mr Bell, 69, is one of the best-known and most highly regarded names in British television journalism, having covered assignments for the BBC in more than 80 countries and 11 conflicts including the Bosnian war, during which millions of viewers saw him wounded by shrapnel.

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Mr Bell, who grew up in Beccles, was in Norwich promoting his most recent book, The Truth That Sticks: New Labour's Breach of Trust.

Mr Bell, who served with the Suffolk Regiment during his National Service, said East Anglia had a proud military tradition.

He cited the deaths of nine soldiers from the Royal Anglian Regiment since 2001, but added: “We've become so unaware of the past. I've never seen a war memorial like it.

“It's not a proper memorial in its present state. I'm an outsider and even I would give a little money for it.”

Norwich City Council's ruling Labour group have previously blamed their Liberal Democrat predecessors for beginning the work with no funding to complete it.

The council has since pledged the work will be started by next March, with the council confident it will get the money to do it from the sale of land for development in Bowthorpe.

A spokesman for Norwich City Council said: “The council has made the refurbishment of the memorial gardens one of its top 10 priorities and we are working very hard to find the funds to do justice to this important piece of Norwich's heritage. We hope to make an announcement in the very near future.”

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