In July 2014, the Surrey Conservative administration published its policy on setting local speed limits which states that reduction in vehicle speeds can have benefits such as reducing the likelihood and severity of collisions, encouraging more cycling and walking and making communities more pleasant places to live. However, the policies states that these benefits must be balanced against the need for reasonable journey times for motorists. This is false balance as 20mph speed limits on unclassified highways have near zero impact on journey times.
The Conservative administration accepted that the safety of children outside schools was “one of the most frequently expressed road safety concerns” and so published a separate ‘Road Safety Outside Schools’ policy which became effective in July 2014.
Surrey’s current policy does allow for the implementation of 20mph speed limits outside schools in theory, but there are practical barriers to schools and local communities being able to introduce such schemes in practice. The process begins with an enquiry to the county’s Sustainable Transport Team from a school or school community. A consultation, engagement with the school and a risk assessment will all follow. A report will then be presented to and considered by the relevant local committee which will have to take into account the funding implications for any scheme. However, there is no specific fund to enable the introduction of 20mph speed limits outside schools meaning that any scheme proposed will have to compete for limited funds with many other highways projects at local committee level. This policy is too harsh. All the county has to do is to introduce the new speed limit –if it is on an unclassified highway and ask the police to enforce it.
What have the Liberal Democrats at County Hall done? The Surrey Liberal Democrats’ manifesto for the 2013 county elections set out a commitment to “ensure roads have appropriate speed limits, not just the national default speed limit, and promote 20mph speed limits near schools and in residential areas where supported by local residents.”
Since then, the Liberal Democrat group have sought to hold the Conservative administration to account by highlighting their failure to prioritise road safety in Surrey and proposing our own policies, such as giving local committees the resources to implement 20mph speed limits outside schools where supported. In July 2015, the Surrey Liberal Democrats challenged the Conservative administration to make the implementation of 20mph speed limits easier. We called on the Cabinet to allocate additional funding for the introduction of 20mph speed limits outside schools where requested by both the school and the local community.
Surrey’s Conservative administration has not supported the Liberal Democrat proposals for more funding for 20mph speed limits outside schools. The Conservative Leader of the Council, David Hodge, when giving evidence about 20mph speed limits outside schools to a House of Commons Select Committee in 2014 said: “The problem is that it is all very well putting in a 20mph limit, but unless somebody is going to enforce it you have wasted a whole lot of money. My view is that I have no intention of wasting public money putting in 20mph zones.”
Our Commitment to Surrey Residents
Our manifesto will make a commitment to provide 20mph speed limits outside all Surrey schools where appropriate and where requested by the school and local residents.