Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Ninth Report

Local authorities

132. Local authorities, working with the police, health authorities and others, implement many of the necessary measures. Their policies are put forward in Local Transport Plans. Local authorities:

"Must..examine where accidents and casualties occur and plan cost-effective remedies as one element of an overall strategy. Through this wider remit, the LTP also ensures that enforcement, education, training and publicity are considered along with engineering measures".[215]

133. The DTLR presented a relatively optimistic view of what was being achieved:

"It is envisaged that some 8,200 smaller scale improvements will be carried out, mainly focussing on road safety and including 20 mph zones outside schools , other traffic calming measures, safe routes to school, and school travel plans".[216]

134. Others were less sanguine. While a few local authorities had done an excellent job, others had achieved little. They had spent too little. The SSI pointed out that in the UK we spend 10p per head on traffic calming; in the Netherlands the sum is £1.60p.[217] Hull City Council's memorandum enables us to compare its achievements with the national record:

Road Casualties


Great Britain







All casualties



- 21%



+ 5%

Child casualties



- 25%



- 12%

All pedestrians



- 37%



- 16%

Child pedestrians



- 39%



- 16%

Adult pedestrians



- 34%



- 13%

All cycle casualties



- 21%



- 17%

Child cycle casualties



- 15%



- 22%

Adult cycle casualties



- 23%



- 15%

135. Several reasons were put forward to explain the poor performance, including:

- funding, both capital and revenue, was inadequate;

- traffic calming was often impossible to justify on cost-benefit grounds;

- many local authorities did not make road safety a priority; and

- DTLR did not provide adequate incentives to take the right actions.

136. There is no doubt that local authorities have too few skilled staff to design and oversee the implementation of traffic calming and road safety schemes. This is because spending on staff in highway departments is not a priority for expenditure. The capital funding for these schemes comes from £8.4 bn provided for local authorities to implement their Local Transport Plans over the next 5 years. This is a large increase on previous years, but it must cover a wide range of other items, including road maintenance.[218] Despite the increased expenditure, the Local Government Association argued that because effective physical measures were expensive, local authorities could not afford them. There is an element of truth in this: the money is inadequate for the £3bn of necessary traffic calming measures proposed by TRL in 1997. Nevertheless, the money already available could fund many more schemes than in the past.

137. Another concern raised by a few local authorities was the difficulty in showing that road safety schemes were cost-effective.[219] Bath and North East Somerset Council was concerned about sites where there were problems caused by speeding traffic, but because of the low accident rate it was "difficult to justify expenditure on these schemes on the basis of traditional rate of return criteria".[220] There is a problem that conventional assessment has put immense value on saving drivers' time. Nevertheless, the evidence is that using a more accurate and appropriate cost benefit analysis local road safety schemes are very cost-effective. TRL Report No. 512 shows that they generate first year average returns of 500%. Moreover, the DTLR has improved the assessment method. We were informed that "...there is no requirement for local authorities to treat only those sites with a proven accident record Local authorities must instead examine where accidents and casualties occur and plan cost effective remedies as one element of its overall strategy...".[221]

138. However, since some local authorities have been able to install an impressive array of measures, it is hard to believe that either shortage of funding or narrow methods of assessment projects can fully explain poor performance. A number of witnesses blamed local authorities because they placed insufficient emphasis on road safety and spent too little on it; many still gave priority to road building rather than saving lives. The SSI argued that:

"Only a fraction of the £1.5 billion allocated in this year's local transport settlement will be spent on safety schemes and even less on schemes to control traffic speeds... the single most important change local authorities could make would be to stop rationing local safety schemes..."[222]

The CPRE told us about the situation in Dorset:

"An average of 25 children a year were killed or seriously injured from 1994-98 in the county and the actual numbers have been rising, to 30 in 1999 and 37 in 2000. The county has allocated £8,500 to each of 12 schools to improve safety in their vicinity. At that rate it would be 2028 before each of the 338 schools in the county were to benefit from road safety funding. In contrast the County Council is able to allocate £728,000 to further the case for the Weymouth relief road scheme".[223]

139. The DTLR's task is to ensure road safety is given adequate priority by local authorities. The DTLR does monitor Local Transport Plans: the Department's memorandum stated:

"The road safety element of the LTPs will be assessed and monitored on an annual basis...DTLR has also commissioned research to monitor annual progress with LTPs and to ensure that safety objectives, scheme performance and value for money are achieved and maintained".[224]

However, it could do more: witnesses argued that it should provide additional guidance about tackling speed in Local Transport Plans and use financial incentives to improve performance. For instance, Mr Silcock argued that funding should be linked to having speed management strategies in place, which should include a review of speed limits.[225]

140. A few local authorities have taken very effective measures which have saved lives and led to major improvements in the quality of life. Others, however, have done much less. All should aim to reach the standards which the best have now achieved. Local authorities do face funding difficulties: there are too few revenue funds (which means that are too few skilled staff) and too many obstacles to getting cost-effective schemes approved. Although it is insufficient for the programme outlined by the TRL in 1997, there is more capital available than before. The principal problem is that too few councils have made road safety and speed reduction a priority.

215   RTS49 Back

216   RTS 49. Back

217   Killing Speed, Slower Speeds Initiative (2001). Back

218   RTS 49; the IHT has concerns that the move to the Single Capital Pot will make matters worse (RTS 38); the Government is also encouraging an expansion of 20mph zones (£3.5m) home zones (£30m fund) funding five demonstration projects to improve safety on mixed priority urban routes (£5.5m).  Back

219   RTS 17. Back

220   RTS 32. Back

221   RTS 49. Back

222   RTS 34. Back

223   RTS 31. Back

224   RTS 49. Back

225   RTS 12. Back

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