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Concerns raised new 20 mph speed limit could increase school transport costs

13 Oct 2023 3 minute read
A 20 mile per hour sign and a school bus. Picture: LDRS

Rory Sheehan, local democracy reporter

Concerns have been raised that the new 20mph speed limit could push the cost of school transport even higher.

Wrexham Council is currently facing an overspend of £1.7m on school transport on top of the £5.6m that is budgeted for.

Lead member for education, Brynyffynnon Cllr Phil Wynn (Ind), gave an update on the situation to the council’s lifelong learning scrutiny committee.

But concern was raised on behalf of a school transport contractor by the deputy chair of the committee, Pant Cllr Stella Matthews (Lab), that the new 20mph default speed limit could be pushing costs higher for transport operators, which will then in turn be passed on to the council when contracts are renegotiated.

Cllr Matthews said: “Following the 20mph issue, picking up the vehicle, going to the school, then going to where the children are being dropped off – in the past it was taking two hours.

“It’s now taking two-and-a-half hours, so that will increase his staffing costs which will obviously be passed on to us in contracts. Has any account been taken of this?”

Introduced by the Welsh Government, the controversial new 20mph default speed limit has been in force since mid-September.

Monitor

The council’s head of service strategy Rachel Penman said operators have been told to record and evidence the effects of the new speed limit on their service, so that the council can monitor and look into it going forward.

Updating councillors on the budget Cllr Wynn said: “For me the two drivers for that (overspend) are that there have been significant inflationary pressures on the contracts that have been awarded, be it taxis or bus drivers.

“There is obviously also a change in the dynamic in that there are more complex need pupils with additional learning needs that need a transport package that tends to be disproportionately more expensive but it’s our duty to get those children to school.”

Cllr Wynn added that there had been a struggle to recruit school escorts but vacancies have now been filled.

“I can’t personally see the actual overall spend on school transport coming down for the foreseeable unless there’s a significant change in the cost of fuel”, he added.

Cllr Wynn asked for the budget to be reviewed ahead of 2024-25.

Chairing the meeting, Queensway Cllr Carrie Harper (Plaid) asked about improvements to budget monitoring.

Officers explained that the way contracts are procured is now much easier to monitor.

Last year forecasts were based on fuel expenditure to date and projected upwards but those numbers changed drastically during the year.

The council has now introduced a ‘dynamic purchasing system’ so it is able to monitor contract values, daily rates, and pupil numbers.

Officers added that there is still a shortage of taxi and bus drivers to fulfil provision.

Recommendations were agreed by councillors to bring the issue of school transport costs back to the committee in May or June.

This will include feedback on any cost increases caused by the introduction of the 20mph default speed limit.


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Sally-Anne
Sally-Anne
5 months ago

Yeah…because its the twenty-per-hour speed limit that we need to focus on and not WCBC’s poor management of finances and resources and the rank stench of corruption that is so strong you can smell it everytime you say the words “Wrexham County Borough Council”, definitely not that…..Its the speed limit, because we can all remember the heady days of last month when everything was cheaper because we could drive ten miles an hour faster through residential areas. ….Mind you, any resident of Wrecsam will tell you that this kind of disingenuous claptrap and “future-proofing narratives” is par for the course… Read more »

Ap Kenneth
5 months ago

Aled Roberts when he was leading Wrexham Council in early 2000s looked at school transport and found a rotten system, services being provided when they should not have, costs far higher than they should have been and lack of clear records as why contracts had been awarded. He tried to reform it. Do I honestly believe that Wrexhams control over this service is any better now? No it is a stinking mess run by right wing politicians. The difference in time quoted suggests a half hour difference, so 10 miles at 20mph, which seems to suggest 30 miles of driving… Read more »

Richard 1
Richard 1
5 months ago

I suspect that Cllr Matthews has been told some porkies about the 25% increase in the trip time. It seems implausible and should be fact-checked.

Sarah Good
Sarah Good
5 months ago

“Concerns” “Could” …
So nothing but crystal ball gazing speculation and patently untrue statements about increases in journey times by those who like to drive fast then?

BigE
BigE
5 months ago

I have to admit to being something of an agnostic, so to speak, in relation to the 20mph limit. My observations, thus far, are that people are trying to keep within the limit but it needs only a slight dip in the road to stray into the low 20s. I shouldn’t be at all surprised if they are the kind of areas where cameras are located. There are two concerns I have. One is that I -and most other drivers I would guess – am concentrating more on the speedometer than on the road itself. The other is that road… Read more »

Gaynor
Gaynor
5 months ago
Reply to  BigE

I thought it was stupid as well. But hand on heart, my journey to work by bus or car from Lampeter to Carmarthen is not taking me any longer than it did 6 weeks ago. What is irritating are these drivers who then carry on at 20mph in the 30-50mph zone! Mas o’r ffordd…However I do agree with you on this gear business! But I do think that even if people find it difficult to stick to 20 at least it does slow people down somewhat.

Euron
Euron
5 months ago

Nobody seems to be paying the blindest bit of attention to it in Cardiff. Average driving speed outside camera or speed bump areas seems to be around 28 mph or even higher. I suspect this will soon prove to be the norm.

karl
karl
5 months ago

Why don’t they ask their MP for more money. So 20mph near schools is to much for them.

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