Barwell says £1.5m to save lives on our roads is ‘wasteful’

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.

Police demonstrating that speeding enforcement is being undertaken in Croydon

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.

Gavin Barwell’s tweet objecting to a scheme which could save people’s lives – and all on the grounds of cost. Is this ‘ineffective gesture politics’, or is he just not very bright?

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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8 Responses to Barwell says £1.5m to save lives on our roads is ‘wasteful’

  1. A consultation that counts ‘no vote’ as a vote in favour is already flawed. The Council were depending on apathy to get their ‘Being seen to be doing something/anything’ strategy in place. And from discussions with various people in the area’s Residents Associations lots of people submitted objections, once they found out about it, which the Council did its best to prevent. And God forbid I’m agreeing with a Tory, especially Barwell, but he’s (choke) right. A waste of time, money and effort. One Met Police speed check on the Godstone Road (a main road not covered by the proposed 20mph limit) doesn’t constitute proof of enforcement. And slapping yet more pointless street furniture on roads that aren’t unsafe in the first place, is going to do what exactly? I note that among your statistics of road accidents and deaths in Croydon the absence of location. Because (according to Crashmap) almost all of them take place on roads that won’t be affected by this speed limit. So it’ll achieve bugger all in real terms. Put intelligent speed restrictions and traffic calming measures in key locations on roads that have the greatest accident rates. Use the money wisely and well and save lives. But this, it’s an expensive Elastoplast being applied to the wrong part of the body that won’t result in the patient getting any damn better.

  2. mikebweb says:

    To say that a 20mph restriction will save all this amount of money is quite out of order as there can be no clear evidence of such. Yes if everybody crawled around town it would most probably save lives, but a 20mph speed limit it not going to stop all speeding motorists. It will not even stop any unless there is some sytem of enforcing it – and this impractical on cost grounds, to here we come back to Gavin Barwells well intended argument – Lets do what we can to save lives that will work within the bounds of possibility and cost effect. The Croydon Council want to have 20mph through the borough as they believe it will have a beneficial effect, yet they do not seem to have any plan to enforce it. There is already a 20mph limit outside schools yet I am regularly overtaken if I stick with it, and in any case why do we need such a ban at midnight, for instance? (In Australia the limited is reduced in school hours only) One thing I do agree with is consistency and in this sense, now that we have a partial 20mph area we have to complete the job, or remove the existing limit – I would go with the latter! If there is to be any hope of getting motorists to stick with any speed laws they have to be consistent – try driving from Croydon to London and see how the bus lanes change time every few yards, it seems.

    • No one has said that the 20mph zones will save £40million a year in the costs of traffic collision misery.

      But that £40m is the official estimate of the costs to Croydon society of all road collisions in one year. Reduce the collisions, reduce the number of fatalities, and those costs will be reduced.

      Statistics from Wandsworth and the City of London since they introduced 20mph zones confirm this.

      Meanwhile, Croydon’s Tories choose to ignore these facts to maintain their “right” to drive faster at potential risk to others.

  3. mraemiller says:

    All politicians evaluating this calculate deaths vs cost. Project Zero – the idea that there should be Zero deaths on the road whatever the cost which is what Sean Fitzimons & Co support is a rather narrow point of view. While it may be true that 20mph would save lives it doesnt follow that all collisions are going to immediately stop and all the £40million cost just be wiped out. Also the Council could have avoided all this by just holding the referendums it promised rather than turning them into consultations.

    Also from their closure of the Fairfield car park one suspects that the Council just hates cars & motorists or wants to keep us all as far away from East Croydon station as possible in case we leave.

    • Actually, the closure of the Fairfield car park is not because the council’s planners, led by Jo Negrini (for rest assured it is their decision), hate cars, and more because they lurv Westfield.

      Ignore the disconnect in major schemes’ delivery dates for a moment: the cars which would have usually parked up in the Fairfield will be expected in future to be displace to the massive Westfield car park, where revenues will contribute to the private developers’ bottom line (either directly or towards whatever operator gets to run it).

  4. mraemiller says:

    What Vision Zero (not Project sorry) believes is “Life and health can never be exchanged for other benefits within the society”. It is a system in which transport designers not the useds are responsible for road deaths… This is actually a fairly new idea. Previously road users bore most of the responsibility and there was a direct £s vs Lives calculation

  5. I am a cyclist, and I think the £1.5M would be better spent evicting the police from behind their comfy desks, and out onto the roads to enforce the 30 mph (and new 20mph) speed limits…

    • If you don’t spend any money on infrastructure – signs – there’s a risk of a lot of unfair prosecution actions.

      But yes, better police budgets would help.

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