More could have been done to ‘prepare the ground’ for 20mph speed limits

More could have been done to ‘prepare the ground’ for 20mph speed limits

More could have been done to “prepare the ground” for Wales’ 20mph speed limits, the First Minister has admitted, as he stood by the policy.

Mark Drakeford, the outgoing Welsh leader, said people will look back on the policy – which has seen a lower speed limit introduced for built-up areas – as Wales leading the way.

However, he accepted that change is difficult, and the Welsh Labour Government could have done more to communicate the change.

The policy was introduced in September last year, with the promise that lower speed limits would lead to fewer collisions and people injured.

It has also seen fierce opposition from the Conservatives in the Senedd, who have branded it a “waste of time and resources”.

Enforcement of the policy is due to start on Monday (March 18).

Speaking to the PA news agency, Mr Drakeford said: “When you look back, I think we could have done more to try to prepare the ground to explain to people what we were intending to do.”

Mr Drakeford is in his last days as First Minister, with Vaughan Gething or Jeremy Miles to be announced as his successor on Saturday.

He said that while the policy had been in Labour’s manifesto during the last Senedd election, he understood that people in Wales “lead busy lives” and do not “spend their evenings flicking through the programme for government”.

General view of a 20mph speed limit sign in Morden, south west London.
Mr Drakeford said that as a proportion more roads in England are 20mph than in Wales, it was not ‘something extraordinary’ that had been done in the country (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

“So there probably was more that we could have done,” he said. “In the end, no matter how much you prepare the ground, when change comes, it can be challenging.

“Look at the history of changes in relation to the way people use their motor cars, it’s always been challenging.

“Whether that was introducing 30mph speed limits, that wasn’t easy to do; the breathalyser was fiercely opposed by people, as was wearing seatbelts.

“I don’t think we look back now and say that was the wrong thing to do, we should allow people to spend the night in the pub and get in the car and drive home.

“In an era of climate change, we’re all going to have to travel differently. The idea that we can go on using up the world’s finite resources, for our own benefit in our own time and leave the problem for somebody after us to clear up, that cannot be a responsible way to approach these things.

“And tough as it has been in some ways, it remains a policy that will save people’s lives, that will prevent thousands of accidents, that has given people back the streets that they live in.

“Very few people argue for the street they live in to go back to 30 miles an hour.”

He said – as a motorist himself – people can be keen to have change in their own streets but wish to drive faster down other people’s.

“I think people will look back in the future and say Wales was in the lead. No, we are doing things that other people will follow.”

However, he also said that as a proportion more roads in England are 20mph than in Wales, it was not “something extraordinary” that had been done in the country, which he called “one of the ironies” of the debate.

“We’ve been fiercely attacked, foolishly attacked, by some Tory MPs who have more 20 mile an hour road to their own constituencies, than we will in Wales.”

Mr Drakeford said he was “quite sure” that Keir Starmer, the Labour leader in Parliament, will be looking at what they have done and whether any elements of it could be applied to England if he wins the next general election.