Council leader slams ‘sheer madness’ of introducing a 20mph default speed limit
The leader of Wrexham Council has questioned the 20mph default speed limit change being implemented across Wales while the ‘cost of living crisis’ is ongoing.
Wales is set to become the first country in the UK to introduce a default 20mph limit on all residential roads as of September 2023.
During the summer Senedd members voted to approve the Labour Welsh Government’s bid to roll-out the law.
But speaking at a Wrexham Council media briefing, leader Mark Pritchard (Ind) slammed the timing of the move and called it ‘sheer madness’.
Talking in the context of looming budget cuts, he said: “I’ve been involved in local politics for 20 years and this is the worst financial experience I’ve had to deal with. There is a tsunami coming over the hill and unless there’s an intervention by Westminster and Cardiff, to fund local authorities there will be devastation, no ifs or buts.
“There has to be a sensible conversation between ourselves, Westminster and the Welsh Government on how you fund local authorities appropriately to continue to deliver services.
“The Welsh Government did give us a good settlement last year and we are pleased with that. But we’re looking to go through another cutting exercise again. I’m very fearful for services and job losses across Wales and every leader of every authority will say the same thing.
“We are looking to use some reserves if we have to but reserves are a one off, once you’ve spent them, they’re gone. It’s not pleasant, it’s very uncomfortable but I know what we’re facing and it’s not good.”
Cllr Pritchard added: “I think it’s sheer madness at this extremely difficult time for all local authorities that the Welsh Government is progressing and proposing to spend on 20mph across the country. That money should go into public services.
“There is a time and a place for everything. I believe in what they’re trying to do for the right reasons, but now is not the time.
“These are pet projects, I believe that the 20mph is an experiment really, there’s no evidence base.
“Aspiration wise, I can understand it, but not at this time. We’re facing a bleak future.”
Deputy leader, Cllr David A Bithell (Ind), lead member for transport and environment, echoed Cllr Pritchard’s view.
He said: “We don’t want to go back to having debates about closing libraries and closing services. We don’t want to go there. We’re trying to improve Wrexham as a city and a place for people to visit.
“We do support it (20 mph speed limit), in an ideal world it would be great, but I think given the cost of living crisis people need to place some of these projects on hold for the time being while we get through the winter and we recover the economy.
“If it means delaying the implementation of some of these schemes for 12 months, well so be it, because the priority must be to protect people and look after the most vulnerable in the winter period.”
The reduction of residential roads to a 20mph speed limit was trialled in Flintshire, on unclassified roads in Buckley, Mynydd Isa, Alltami and New Brighton earlier this year but lead to petitions against the proposal.
The Welsh Government has outlined the reasons for implementing the legislation on its website, including links to research and evidence gathered from public surveys.
It says the measures will increase road safety and improve the environment: “The evidence is clear, decreasing speed limits reduces collisions and saves lives.
“Previous research has shown that there are 40 per cent fewer collisions in areas with 20mph compared with 30mph.
“In Wales, it has been estimated that with widespread introduction of 20mph, six to 10 lives would be saved and 1,200 to 2,000 casualties avoided each year. The value of preventing these casualties is between £58 million to £94 million each year.”
“As well as making collisions less severe when they do happen, the slower speed also increases the chances of avoiding a collision in the first place, in turn reducing the burden on the NHS.”
You can read the reasons and evidence provided in full for the legislation at the Welsh Government’s website here
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