Shropshire Star

Concerns raised at Powys County Council over Welsh 20mph zone workload

The new 20mph rule across Wales has been a "big drain" on management resources in Powys, councillors have been told.

Photo: Elgan Hearn

At a meeting of Powys County Council’s Cabinet on Tuesday, the issue of the new 20mph rules arose as senior councillors were updated on how the 2023/2024 budget forecast stood at the end of June.

After the first financial quarter of the year, the council is set to report a predicted surplus of £3.734 million at the end of next March.

This is against its base budget of £326.621 million for 2023/2024.

The council was given £1.6 million by the Welsh Government to update the road signage in preparation for the legal change to the 20mph speed limit, which came into force last Sunday, September 17.

The Finance Panel scrutinises the council’s budgets and is chaired by the leader of the largest opposition group at the council, Conservative group leader Councillor Aled Davies.

The panel looked at the forecast position at a meeting last Friday, September 15.

The Highways Transport and Recycling (HTR) service was forecast to spend £1.132 million over its £33.365 million allocation for the year.

Councillor Davies said: “There was concern that the introduction of the 20mph limit has taken resources from the council. A huge amount of work has had to be done by council employees to deliver that.

“Hopefully it was fully funded by the Welsh Government but there’s a potential knock-on effect on other highways issues. There’s anecdotal evidence that potholes are not being dealt with as quickly as in previous summers.”

Director of environment and economy, Nigel Brinn said: “The work on the 20mph zones, the work was fully funded by the Welsh Government. It is a major project, let's recognise what it is.

“It’s not leading directly to any loss of service, in terms of pothole repairs et cetera, but it is a big drain on managerial resource of the team.”

Council leader, Liberal Democrat, Councillor James Gibson-Watt said: “The 20mph implementation has been a significant piece of work for the council as all local authorities.

“For all of the difficulties this has caused, I think it’s a thoroughly sensible policy.”

The Liberal Democrat/Labour cabinet noted the budget position and also agreed on a number of internal budget transfers. This included moving £100,000 from council reserves to this year’s budget.

This is for one-off funding which was agreed at the budget support next year’s Urdd National Eisteddfod at Meifod in Montgomeryshire, which will be held at the end of May and early June 2024.

The money is needed for “upfront costs” rather than those at the time of the event which had been earmarked for next year’s budget.