Updated October 2023
The Welsh Government’s regulations that change most 30mph speed restrictions to 20mph, came into force in September.
There has been huge public reaction, including a petition on the Senedd website, that has led to hundreds of thousands of Welsh residents signing the petition and opposing the move.
I voted against the Traffic order which was voted on in the Senedd last July for several reasons which I will come on to mention.
While in some areas a reduced speed limit is appropriate, such as outside schools, and in many cases I have requested a change to 20mph myself, the blanket 20mph introduction is going to have a serious negative impact. I firmly believe that the Welsh Government simply needed to make the process much easier for reducing speed limits in areas where there was concern, and where there was community support, rather than bringing forward a blanket policy.
The Welsh Government claim that this is not a blanket approach, as councils can make exceptions to put to a limit back to 30mph, but in my view, the guidance to councils to bring forward an exemption is so rigid, they simply do not have the discretion needed. 97% of 30mph restrictions have been changed to 20mph across Wales. I therefore hold the view this is a blanket approach policy.
The change has cost an initial £32.5 million with a potential impact of up to £9 billion to the economy over a period of years, according to the Welsh Governments own figures.
I voted against this traffic order, as I considered the blanket approach to be wrong, The funding provided to bring this order forward, should be spent on other priority areas, such as on our Health service, a point I made to the Minister in the Senedd on the day of the vote last year.
Before the policy was agreed, there was a trial of the new limit in various parts of Wales. Data from the trial areas shows that enforcement is not consistently carried out, with one area experiencing no enforcement at all.
Before the policy came into force, an ITV poll showcased that 66% of people were against the change and even the Welsh Government’s consultation in March 2022 found that 53% of respondents opposed the change.
My own online survey attracted a huge amount of interest from people who are overwhelmingly against the reductions. I ran the survey ahead of the introduction and I have detailed the response I had received up to the day of the order coming into force.
87% of people said that they were concerned about the impact the change would have to their lives. 83% of respondents felt that businesses and visitors, a vital part of Mid Wales’ economy, would be affected. 88% of respondents felt that each location for reductions should be assessed to decadent the most appropriate restriction.
Common concerns raised in the survey included about the significant funds allocated by Welsh Government towards the project, policing of existing limits and the impact on public transport like buses. One resident reflected that increased enforcement costs had not been properly considered and many others that frustrated drivers could end up being less aware of road conditions as they tried to keep to lower limits.
Apart from the vote on the traffic order last July, the Welsh Conservatives brought forward a further vote to scrap the default limit change. As it currently stands, and despite the widespread opposition, the Welsh Government are standing by this policy but I am pleased that there does seem to be a degree of willingness to review this position and re-look at the guidance that has been issued to councils.