Bildeston: 20mph campaigner accuses council of putting budget constraints before safety
A CAMPAIGNER for 20mph speed restrictions in a Suffolk village has accused the county’s highways chief of putting council budgets before residents’ safety.
Data released to the EADT concerning the number of casualties on Suffolk’s roads last year recorded by speed limit, shows there were just five in 20mph zones compared to a total of 1,253 in 30-zones.
Earlier this year, Suffolk County Council cabinet member for roads and transport Guy McGregor disbanded the team that dealt with routine requests for speed limit extensions in the county and put a freeze on implementing new speed restriction zones.
In a letter to councillors, he said the decision had been made because Suffolk already had enough speed restrictions in place, and following a review of A and B class roads, he was confident speed limits complied with the “most up to date guidance” from the Department for Transport.
But Robert Lindsay, who is pushing for a 20mph zone through Bildeston, claimed evidence obtained under a Freedom of Information request showed the decision had been made because of budget constraints, and that the accident statistics had not been taken into consideration.
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The figures demonstrate that in 2011, there were five collisions recorded in the county occurring in 20mph speed zones against 991 in 30mph zones. The casualty statistics recorded showed there was only one serious injury sustained in 20-zones compared to 137 in 30-zones.
Mr McGregor said the figures for accidents in 20-zones were lower because there were “far fewer” 20mph restrictions in Suffolk than there were 30mph zones.
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But Mr Lindsay said: “It seems that Mr McGregor is more interested in creating a narrative for public consumption than in reducing the annual toll of death and serious injuries on Suffolk’s roads.
“All the evidence is that lower speed limits reduce injuries and deaths, improve health and wellbeing and cut costs to society.
“But the information I have received shows that the council simply carried out a box-ticking exercise to see if their limits met Government criteria.”
The county received 58 requests from villages for speed limit reductions in 2010. Mr Lindsay added: “The council was dealing with dozens of requests every year from parish councils and communities for lower speed limits, but the budget to deal with these had been taken away from the highways department and given to councillors to use at their discretion.”
Mr McGregor said requests for speed limit extensions would still be logged, but unless there were “exceptional circumstances”, they would not receive immediate attention.
However he added: “Although the central team we had at HQ has been disbanded as part of the council’s restructuring, we have delegated the issue to individual local area councillors who can contribute to schemes in their area out of their quality of life budget if they are convinced there is an ongoing problem.”