On Monday 8th April, I went down to Bromley Council again to follow the action and listen to some of the pressing issues that have developed since the last council meeting. Unlike meetings in the past, this week's proceedings started differently. Before any business was attended to, the Mayor, Councillor Kim Botting, requested that the council chamber take a minutes' silence to remember the lives of the 50 Muslims who were tragically murdered in the horrific Christchurch terrorist attack in March.
20mph Speed Limit Outside Schools Petition:
First on the order paper was a petition brought to the Council by Ruth Fabricant on behalf of the Bromley Green Party, which sought to introduce 20mph speed limits outside of schools and other places of need. In accordance with the Council's Petition Scheme, Ms. Fabricant had five minutes to address the chamber and outline her petition. In her speech, she outlined how residents across Bromley Borough were in favour of introducing such measures, with the head teacher from Worsley Bridge Primary School and parents from Balgowan, Harris Academies Kent House and Shortlands all voicing their concerns. In areas where a 20mph zone outside was already in operation, such as Perry Hall Primary School in Orpington, parents and teachers reportedly spoke highly of the safety measures. In her concluding remarks, Ms. Fabricant drew attention to the issue of Lollipop Ladies/Men no longer being fully funded by the Council, instead receiving a small grant which needed to be supplemented by parents and others. This raises questions about the safety of children who attend schools in less affluent parts of the borough, where such additional funding is less likely to come. Does the council not have a duty to reinstate full funding for Lollipop Ladies/Men with money raised from council tax-paying residents to ensure that all children's lives across Bromley are cared for, no matter their social mobility?
Petition Debate: After listening to the petition, the council began debating the issue. Councillor Huntington-Thresher started things off by thanking Ms. Fabricant for the petition but quickly explained how such speed zones are not a priority; rather, reducing road accidents across the borough overall was the council's first aim. In addition to his comments, Councillor Huntington-Thresher suggested firstly that councillors in areas most affected by speeding cars could work with schools to educate pupils on road safety, and secondly that implementing 20mph speed zones would make little difference, given that drivers do not currently abide by the 30mph limit.
In response to Councillor Huntington-Thresher's remarks, the Labour bench replied with a more pragmatic approach. Councillor Dunn praised the introduction of 20mph limits in Bristol, where a recent study showed that there has been a drop in road casualties in the city and also around schools. Meanwhile, Councillor Allan attacked the Conservative council for, what she described as, "needing accidents" to happen before safety measures are implemented. Councillor Simon Jeal further suggested that such speed limit zones should also be extended to nurseries, particularly around the Kings Hall road area of Penge and Cator ward. Perhaps most heart-wrenching was Councillor Ahmad's account of her time talking to pupils at Worsley Bridge road in Beckenham, where a ten year-old pupil said to the councillor that she "felt as though I'm going to die crossing the road". Although the Labour members are outnumbered 9/50 on the council, and despite their promotion of 20mph speed limits outside of schools, none raised their hands to at least show discontent towards the council's approach despite and the motion to take no further action on the petition carried.