Thursday, 7 January 2016

Will an Unconsented Blanket Imposition of 20 mph Speed Limits Make our Roads Safer?

Last evening the Cheshire West & Chester Administration, which is Labour run, passed a motion that allows our Borough Council Highways Department to implement 20 mph speed limits on residential roads across our Borough with no consultation.
I should say at the outset as a Conservative Cllr that I fully support reduced speed limits, including 20mph limits, where they are beneficial, where they will be adhered to and most importantly where they are wanted by local communities. I do not support the blanket imposition of 20mph speed limits based on a weak, ill thought out political objective.
The Lab Cabinet members at the meeting I attended last night referred time and again during the cabinet meeting to the fact that they were attempting to affect drivers “behaviours”. I am afraid they collectively demonstrated an utter failure to understanding how we are best able to influence and change an individuals behaviour. Antecedents, Behaviours and Consequences (behavioural ABC if you are Googling) are inextricably linked to any behavioural change program. You quite simply  will not implement the required change if these three interrelated key ingredients are divided. Here we have an approach based only on the antecedents, there is no thought given to consequences or “enforcement” of speed limits. Our Lab Cllrs simplistically believe simply “telling” people to do something will work. It doesn’t.
But we have a “respecting, listening, open and transparent” Labour administration here in CWaC, don’t we?
I am not so sure. Let’s look at the facts. This Lab Administration issued a consultation document entitled Let’s Talk at the end of last year, this “consultation” document was still open for comments (never mind responses collated, assessed and published) as last night’s decision was being made by the Cabinet. Can you really be an open, honest, transparent council, respecting the views of those it purports to represent, when you make Key Decisions which impact on 10’s of thousands of our residents before the public consultation even closes?
When any administrative body takes such a top down, dictatorial approach to decision making the likely outcome will be a lack of buy in, trust and support for those decisions. If we take the 20mph speed limit decision, a decision taken in exactly this way, the likely impact will be to alienate residents and drivers to many of the new speed limits. Without the engagement and support of local communities drivers are far less likely to adhere to the lower speed limits. The reverse is true of vulnerable road users. Pedestrians, cyclists, the young and the elderly will believe they are at less risk due to the perception a “20mph speed limit” and associated signage delivers, irrespective as to whether or not the speed limit is adhered to or enforced. There is a clear and extremely worrying disconnect here between road users.
So what is the Conservative proposition you ask? We have a very different approach in as much as it is based solely on community consultation and support. We believe where a community identifies the need for a 20mph limit they can have one put in place, with the full support of the council, following a full and open consultation with those members of their community who will be affected. The consultation we use is in the form of a local referendum with a majority of responses being in favour of the proposal triggering the installation of the 20mph limit. A truly open and engaging approach I would argue.
Labour have seen fit to take this option away from us as residents here in Cheshire West and Chester. They will argue that they have replaced this open approach to community consultation with the option to “comment via a TRO”. What is a TRO I hear you cry? It is a Traffic Regulation Order which in short is the legal framework local authorities use to make changes to the Highways network they manage on our behalf. Hidden in this legal framework is a level of consultation that amounts to little more than a couple of lines in the advertising section of a local newspaper. Not exactly something that is going to give any proposal a thorough airing, or is likely to be discussed by friends and neighbours over a pint on a Friday night. How many TRO’s have you engaged in in the past?
All in all this Labour Administration’s “we know best and therefore you are having it” approach is a worrying development for future community engagement, road safety and to local decision making here in Cheshire West and Chester.

For information I have attached the link to the Cabinet papers that include the maps of the areas, in Appendix 3, as currently proposed. The paper that was unanimously passed by the Labour Cabinet last night.

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