Do we want Woodbridge to be a 20mph town or not? Some people do, others don’t. Whatever we think, we need to be able to SAY what it is we want and have Suffolk County Council listen to us.
There was a premature end to today’s full SCC Council meeting when I – along with every other non-Conservative member present – got up and left the chamber in disgust, leaving the Conservatives to talk among themselves.
This was because the Cabinet Member for Roads and Transport had a difficulty in differentiating between amendment and replacement. (At least the amendment he wrote began “Delete current wording and replace with..” pretty much as if he thought Full Council and the whole democratic process were nothing more than an incompetent typist.)
The motion in question was, at first glance, pretty benign. It asked SCC to “support, help fund and actively engage with those communities, local residents and other civic amenity groups, town – and parish councils across Suffolk in their requests for speed limits of 20mph in residential areas which are designed as community-generated actions to make their local streetscapes safer (particularly for children and older pedestrians and cyclists); and more tranquil places where community life can flourish and air pollution can be reduced”
What could be more harmless and useful?
It didn’t demand anything. It didn’t insist on anything. It just suggested that SCC should have a look at its green protestations and perhaps consider those residents who wished to travel by other transport than the car unimpeded.
And as I have been trying to get SCC to look at Woodbridge becoming a trial 20mph zone for the last 2 years I was going to speak in support of the motion. 20mph is an impossible speed for pedestrians or runners and a good fast speed for horse and cycle – why should we decide it is unreasonably slow for cars in residential areas? The practicalities can be achieved without speed-bumps or signs by making the whole area a speed-exclusion zone, and a study of one of these zones in London found they reduced casualties by 40%.
What’s not to like?
A lot, according to Mr McGregor. He eyed this motion much as his namesake may have eyed Peter Rabbit, drove his pen through it, and wrote something he approved of instead. So much for democracy and the will of the people
His replacement motion said instead that SCC will:
- continue supporting 20s Plenty
- provide support and help with funding for those 20mph schemes where pre-determined road safety [my question: predetermined by who and to what criteria?] and other environmental criteria are met and where they are deemed necessary[o note that fatal, weaselly passive: who deems them necessary? and on what grounds?] and
- work with Suffolk Police to maintain and improve road safety.
Eh? In other words Mr McGregor replaced an honest, intelligent intention for the future of Suffolk roads with a so-called ‘amendment’ committing SCC to absolutely nothing that they are not doing already.
And he seriously expected members would neither notice this, nor mind wasting an entire afternoon debating this fatuous statement of the status quo.
When it turned out that new SCC Chair (and ex-Leader) Jeremy Pembroke was happy to accept this ridiculous replacement for serious political debate, the Lib Dem, Labour, and Independent members walked out en masse. (As would the Greens, no doubt, only the poor souls, having proposed the original motion were stuck). When I last saw the Council webcam the Conservatives were busy debating this non-event all on their own.
Let’s hope in the absence of anyone other than themselves, Tory members might actually say what they really think on the matter for once, rather than toeing the Cabinet line..
PS This is what the SCC website has to say about the Council’s attitude to 20mph zones on its Cycling page.