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#SwindonTory Promise 50a – Are Our Roads Now As Safe As We Were Promised?

I was rummaging through Swindon Borough Council’s ’50 Promises’ tonight and happened to notice a significant lack of recent updates on several of them which, considering that all 50 promises were supposed to be ‘Achieved’ by April 2010, I found a little surprising.

I’m interested in several of the as-yet-unachieved promises but, as it’s rumoured that Cllr Peter Greenhalgh’s Budget, (the Cabinet Member for Sustainability, Strategic Planning, Property and Transport), is to be slashed by as much as £600,000, I’m particularly interested in promise 50a:

Promise 50A: “Through better safety initiatives on the roads we control, we will reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured on the roads by 40%.”

The last update for promise 50a was posted on the SBC website at some point during the first half of 2009.  It is possible that this update is now at least one year out of date which is unforgivable gieven the serious nature of the subject matter, i.e, those Killed and Seriously injured on Swindons roads.

Attention to politically inconvenient details is not something I’ve come to expect from Swindons Tory Councillors and given that Cll’rs Greenhalgh and Bluh made a tremendous amount of media noise promoting their withdrawal from the Swindon and Wiltshire Safety Camera Partnership, and that Bluh is currently in need of at least one good news story to bolster his threadbare portfolio of successes, the offical ‘silence’ on this issue is a tad disturbing.

Just two years ago Councillor Greenhalgh justified his decision to change Swindons approach to road safety by telling any journalist who would listen:

“We treat road safety seriously but we pay about £400,000 a year to the partnership, which goes straight into the Government’s pockets. We don’t get anything back.  Instead this money should be spent on local safety measures. These are far more effective than speed cameras which, I feel, are a blatant tax on the motorist. They [motorists] are being used as a cash cow. I take exception to the positioning of some mobile speed cameras. They are designed to raise revenue. Enough is enough.”

What was a little odd though, was the fact that neither Councillor Greenhalgh or Leader of the Council Roderick Bluh ever seemed overly bothered about speed cameras,  in fact, despite being banned from driving for 3 months after being caught speeding several times in a row,  Bluh was never particularly vocal about speed cameras being a cash-cow or blatant tax on the motorist until a change to the rules allowed Her Majesty’s Treasury to keep the £250,00+  raised by Swindon’s speed cameras instead of giving any of it directly to the Council.  Funny that.

The speed cameras were deactivated in July 2009 and the accident figures seemed to continue rising, in fact Rod Bluh admitted as much to the Swindon Pravdatiser:

“We know that we have a problem with the number of accidents on our roads rising and that is why we want to tackle the problem by using that money in the most effective way”

But, despite concerns of rising numbers of KSI’s on Swindons roads in the first half of 2009, (KSI = Killed or seriously injured), by December 2009 Councillor Bluh was enthusiastically patting his friend and colleague on the back for ‘Challenging the status quo’.  In his Christmas speech to the party faithful Bluh said:

“Speed Camera policy has been accepted by the Police as moving the debate forward and our new approach to Road Safety is being seen as a potential national pilot.  It also changed Conservative Party national policy as announced at Party Conference.  Well done to Pete [Cllr Greenhalgh] for his challenge to the Status quo”

I don’t pretend to know what ‘Moving the debate forward’ is supposed to mean, unless it is spin for:  ‘The argument is still raging’, but shortly afterwards Bluh’s speed camera bragging appears to have completely petered out,  which brings us neatly back to the on-going lack of Councillor noise on the issue.   In my experience, silence from politicians rarely indicates good news and Lord knows Bluh could certainly do with at least one good news story right now, especially as  Cllr Mark Edwards budget is a leprous but still mobile corpse which is poisoning any other portfolio it lurches against.  Cllr Greenhalgh’s ‘Transport & Strategic Planning’ portfolio appears to be its latest victim.

The Road Safety Situation In Swindon is of considerable interest to anyone who uses the Borough’s roads yet Bluh appears to decided that the transport budget should be hacked away at in a desperate attempt to stave off the almost inevitable failure of Cllr Edward’s Budget.

I don’t trust any of the cabinet members concerned to answer a direct question on KSI’s without obfuscation, evasion or concealment and, as we’ve long ago proved that the Council has not functioned democratically, openly or even according to the rules since Bluh has been ‘leading’ it, and especially not if the question is deemed, (by Bluh),  to be ‘politically embarrassing’.  The committed questioner is left with the last, but possibly best option in my opinion,  option of using the Freedom of Information Act to get answers.  (Although even this is increasingly being abused/ignored by some councillors).

My FOI question for today then, via the totally excellent www.whatdotheyknow.com is therefore:

Dear Swindon Borough Council,

Re: Swindon Borough Council Promise 50a

“Through better safety initiatives on the roads we control, we will reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured on the roads by 40%”

My questions relate only to roads controlled by Swindon Borough Council:

What was the target figure for all Killed and Seriously Injured (KSI)in the 12 months leading up to 31 December 2009?

What was the actual figure for all Killed and Seriously Injured (KSI) in the 12 months leading up to 31 December 2009?

What is the target figure for all Killed and Seriously Injured (KSI) in the 12 months leading up to 31 December 2010.

What is the figure for all Killed and Seriously Injured (KSI) between January 1st 2010 and the most recent date for which this data is available?

Yours faithfully,

Geoff Reid

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Posted on
Tuesday, June 29th, 2010
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June 29th, 2010