KEN LEE, our south of the borough correspondent, reports on the latest not-very-bright piece of opposition-for-opposition’s sake dreamt up by the local Conservatives
The latest exercise in political point-scoring from Croydon’s Tories, including gaffe-prone Gavin Barwell, could put children’s lives at risk. And it is all being influenced by a motoring activist who proved himself to be so unreasonable that he even got kicked out of UKIP.
The Conservative group on Croydon Council last night effectively said they want to keep death on our roads after they called in for scrutiny a decision to roll-out 20mph zones on residential streets across the borough.
The scrutiny call by the Tories may delay the introduction of 20mph speed limits in three areas around the borough. The 20mph speed limits – which do not affect major routes – have already been introduced in two areas to the north of the borough.
Opposition to the scheme to make Croydon’s roads safer has been led by Barwell, who is seeking re-election as the MP for Croydon Central. Barwell yesterday belly-ached that putting up 20mph road signs might cost £1.5million.
Barwell accused the Labour-run council of “wasteful, ineffective gesture politics”, while indulging in exactly that practice himself, as the Tory delays potentially put people’s lives at risk.
Figures from the City of London and Tory-run Wandsworth – areas which have already introduced 20mph zones – suggest that safer roads with fewer collisions could save Croydon £40million per year in the costs related to the serious injuries, and sometimes deaths, which occur as a consequence of speeding cars.
Road safety organisations have produced much evidence to show that pedestrians, in particular children, are far more likely to be killed if hit by a car travelling at 30mph than when vehicles are travelling at 20mph.Croydon Tories’ only other line of reasoning to oppose the overdue move appears to be that it is impossible to enforce 20mph speed limits. Which is a bit rich from the political group which at national and city level has spent the past seven years cutting police numbers to the point where traffic management has had to be forced well down the Met’s list of priorities.
The Tory line on this at Tuesday night’s meeting was put forward by Sara “Book Token” Bashford.
This is the councillor who has somehow risen to the rank of deputy leader of Croydon’s Tories, although she does also have a second income as she works as personal assistant to Barwell in his constituency office.
At the council meeting, Bashford said, “The police should be dealing with serious crimes.”
“Being killed or seriously injured is serious,” came the reply from a Labour backbencher.
Another Tory councillor, Margaret Bird, was against the 20mph speed limit because… well, she’s just not a very competent driver, claiming that there’s a steep hill in Coulsdon where it is impossible to drive up it at less than 20mph.
The Tory line on the problems of enforcing the speed limit was also undermined yesterday by none other than the Metropolitan Police, who issued 15 tickets for speeding and other motoring offences while running a check point on Godstone Road in Kenley. So, clearly, enforcement is being done by the Met.
That the Tories have resorted to such ill-considered arguments strongly points to the pernicious influence of Peter Morgan, the Coulsdon motoring campaigner, who according to council officials had personally lodged more than a hundred objections ahead of Tuesday night’s traffic and roads management committee meeting which rubber-stamped the 20mph policy for the south of Croydon.
Ex-Kipper Morgan was given 15 minutes to speak at Tuesday’s meeting, which was staged in the council chamber in anticipation of a large public turn-out in opposition. But when the meeting began there were just six people in the public gallery. By the time it ended, there was just one left – Morgan himself.This apparent apathy from the public on the subject had not been reflected in the number of objections received by the council to the scheme – more than 3,300. Many of these had been encouraged by the local Tories. But according to council sources, nearly half of the objections filed were not identifiable to anyone on the electoral roll or were simply anonymous – all the hall-marks of Morgan and his multi-identity online campaigning.
What Morgan, Barwell and Croydon’s Tories cannot argue with is the tragic toll on the borough’s roads.
In 2015, the last year for which figures are available, there were 1,047 people injured in road incidents on the boroughs roads, 62 of them categorised as “serious”, often involving life-changing injuries. There were three fatalities.
Of these, 202 were pedestrians, 104 were cyclists and 178 were motor cyclists.
According to the Department for Transport, the average costs to society per reported casualty is £15,450 per slight casualty, £200,422 for each serious casualty and £1,783,556 for every fatal casualty. That meant that in 2015, the cost to Croydon of those road accidents came to £40million.
The human pain and suffering caused is unmeasurable. But it is interesting to note that Barwell, a Tory minister, thinks that spending £1.5million to try to reduce such suffering is “wasteful”.
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