Most Shropshire councillors arrived at December’s council meeting by car. It seems that habit has conditioned them to be oblivious to the need to calm our streets. To reduce speeds in residential streets. To make them safer. Equally important, to make them more pedestrian friendly. To encourage mutual respect between different ways of travelling. To promote active travel – by foot and on cycles.
The council did agree to introduce 20mph outside schools. But most of the Conservatives voted against areawide 20mph limits to slow traffic on residential streets on the instruction of the council leader Peter Nutting. That is a failure of leadership.
A motion on 20mph outside schools was proposed by Dan Morris, Conservative councillor for Burnell. It was an excellent motion and I suggested an amendment. This would have made the zig zags outside schools enforceable through a traffic regulation order. The yellow lines are only advisory at present and are too often ignored. Peter Nutting, the council leader opposed the amendment. I got the impression that he did not know that zig zags are not enforceable. The portfolio holder for transport Steve Davenport made it clear he did understand they were not enforceable. This is symptomatic of the focus in the council leadership on those that drive. Those that want to drive fast at the expense of active travel. Rather than lose the intention of my motion, I agreed a compromise. Zig zags will be looked at when officers consider how to implement the 20mph limit outside schools. But it was not included in the council resolution. If it has been it would have been much stronger.
The agenda was reorganised to take the second motion on 20mph as the next item. This was a Lib Dem group motion and I had been designated to lead. It didn’t go well.
Opposition to the motion was led by Dan Morris, Conservative councillor for Burnell. Yes. The same one as above. He didn’t sound confident. He was on shaky ground and I couldn’t understand his reasoning. He said the wording of the motion (below) meant it wouldn’t apply to small villages. Okay. I get that. But this could have been dealt with by officers. The motion asked them to come back with a report with specific recommendations. Morris could have also proposed an amendment. But he wanted to extend the scope of 20mph zones while not supporting having them in residential areas in the first place. He said he had found people both for and against 20mph. That meant he could not support the motion. If we took that view on every agenda item, no decision would ever be made in a council meeting. Dan Morris was talking like he had been instructed from high to act on a bad brief.
It was clear that the Tory members, who form the majority on the council, had discussed voting against the motion before the meeting. It was obvious that the Tory leader Peter Nutting had instructed them to vote against. There seems to be an attitude problem in the Tories. You must obey the Leader. But despite this at least two Conservatives voted for the 20mph policy. No doubt they will get their wrists slapped for not following the party line.
The Lib Dems don’t whip.
I don’t know about Labour. But when we were discussing introducing a four day week norm, Alan Mosely said he had instructed his team of councillors to vote against it. (It’s now Labour national policy.) So, I guess Labour whips also. We don’t need rubbish like this in local government. Councillors should vote for their constituents’ best interests. Not the demands of their leader of the day.
But the wiles and whims of the Tory leader of the day won the vote. There will be no countywide introduction of 20mph residential zones.
I would have expected to win this motion. It is common sense and promotes many of the council’s policies. But the political flaws in local government meant the motion was defeated. I am not blaming this on Councillor Dan Morris. If he had not opposed the motion, someone else would have been stepped up.
This is life in Shropshire Council. We take a small step forward but cannot manage a big leap on anything. That’s a failure of leadership. The council has policies to build a new bypass for Shrewsbury (the NWRR). The leader wants to extend the M54 to Shrewsbury. But it has no vision for active travel. For walking and cycling. For bringing calm to our residential streets. For making tranquility normal.
We all own our streets. Citizens should be able to enjoy being out and about without being relegated to second class status by cars and vans hell bent on getting somewhere else.
Motions presented to Council on 19 December
The following motion has been received from Councillor Dan Morris and supported by the Conservative Group (approved):
This Council supports the principle of a 20 mph speed limit outside all schools in the county and asks officers to bring a report to Council within 6 months to consider how this could be implemented.
Amendment by Andy Boddington (defeated):
Add the following text:
Yellow zig zag lines outside most schools in Shropshire are currently advisory. No penalties can be enforced. This council requests a countywide traffic regulation order is issued to implement a mandatory prohibition of traffic stopping outside our schools when students are present.
Lib Dem motion
The following motion has been received from Councillor Roger Evans and supported by the Liberal Democrat Group (defeated):
Many councils have or are in the process of implementing wide area 20mph speed limits on residential and urban roads without traffic calming.
Many bodies with a remit for public health support a reduction in speed limits to 20mph on residential streets.
Wide area 20mph limits rarely need traffic calming measures. They are an affordable way to improve health equality by creating child, disability, elderly and dementia friendly streetscapes that help reduce inactivity, obesity and isolation.
Implementing wide area 20mph limits must be a core part of Shropshire Council’s public health strategy.
This council requests the Director of Public Health and Director of Place bring a report to council by May 2020 setting out the parameters and timetable for introducing area wide 20mph limits across Shropshire’s towns and major villages.