North Wales MS Mark Isherwood has today held to account the Labour Minister who has become the driving force behind Wales' new 20mph law, quoting a Flintshire County Councillor who has stated that the “Welsh Government don't appear to have learnt any lessons from the pilot” in Buckley.
Speaking in this afternoon’s meeting of the Welsh Parliament, Mr Isherwood asked the Deputy Minister for Climate Change, Lee Waters MS, what policy analysis the Welsh Government undertook before implementing the unpopular 20 mph speed limit.
He was told “policy was four years in the making”, but Mr Isherwood challenged him over the discretion local authorities have been granted to change the new limit, and Welsh Government’s claims that in Spain, where they have 20 mph as their default position, deaths and accidents have fallen.
“The Welsh Government has stated previously both that ‘Local Authorities have the discretion to change the 20mph limit’, and that ‘in Spain, where they have 20 mph as their default position, urban deaths from road accidents have fallen by 20 per cent and the number of cyclists killed in road traffic accidents has been reduced by 34 per cent’.
“How do you therefore respond to the Flintshire County Councillor representing part of your Buckley 20 mph pilot area, who wrote last week, stating, 'Unfortunately, Welsh Government don't appear to have learnt any lessons from the Pilot. The powers given to Authorities are not clear, and making a case why the road should be excluded is difficult for our Council Officers'?
“And, noting that Spain had more road deaths per million inhabitants than the UK in 2022, how do you respond to the statement by the Spanish Interior Minister in January, comparing the figures for 2022 with 2019, the last pre-pandemic year without mobility restrictions there, that 2022 represented more deaths than in 2019, and, quote, 'When it comes to cyclists, the number of fatalities also increased'?”
In his response, the Deputy Minister failed to address the figures for Spain, but with regards the pilot in Buckley, said:
“In terms of the pilot we ran in Flintshire, the whole point of a pilot is to try things, and part of trying involves failing and learning from the failure, and I don't see any problem with that. In fact, that's the whole point of doing it. Now, we decided in different settlements to trial different approaches. So, in some areas, we trialled monitoring, in some, we trialled enforcement. In the case of Buckley, we decided to trial the exceptions procedure. Now, there was a debate about whether or not we should allow some exceptions within Buckley as part of that trial, or to take an area-wide approach, and it was decided, for the purposes of testing that approach, to take an area-wide approach.
“Now, I think that Buckley has shown that an area-wide approach does not work, and the exceptions procedure is best used, particularly for communities like Buckley, where part of the road goes through almost a semi-rural area, where there aren't any houses, and another through Liverpool Road, through far more dense population. So, it's a really tricky example—we probably couldn't have chosen a more difficult area to pilot the exceptions, frankly.”
Mr Isherwood added:
“The County Councillor I quoted also stated ‘We now have an additional four mile stretch A549 as 20 mph despite Councillors making the case to Lee Waters as to why he should make a further change to the criteria’. His failure to then answer my question about the experience in Spain perhaps tells us all we need to know about this.”