Political divisions in Brighton & Hove
No party has a majority on Brighton & Hove City Council. The Greens have 23 seats, the Conservatives have 18 seats and Labour has 13 seats. No other parties or independent candidates were elected to the City Council. The councillors from the Conservative and the Labour parties have agreed to allow the Green Party to exclusively manage the administration of the City.
Green Party proposed 20mph speed limit
In March 2011, the Brighton & Hove Green Party published its manifesto for the then forthcoming local elections. It was a detailed publication, which divided into 20 sections over 28 pages. The second section set out the local party’s 13 priorities for the following term. The 8th priority was:
Implement a 20mph speed limit for Brighton and Hove’s residential roads.
Political debate over 20mph speed limit
On 4th May the City Council will consider whether to impose the 8th priority in the list above, which proposes to impose a blanket 20mph speed limit on all residential roads inside the City’s boundaries. The Conservative Party opposes this measure on the basis that the measure is too extreme; it would prefer it to be applied in certain areas only. The Labour Party supports this measure in principle but questions its temporal merit on the basis that it is unenforceable. Those are legitimate political arguments.
Police priorities and politics
Policing is a complicated job. There has always been a need for the police to decide how to allocate its resources. Sometimes this becomes a matter of political debate. Usually the police manage this delicate issue with diplomacy. In other words, it is very rare for the police to announce that they won’t enforce a particular law. It is rare because such announcements put the police into the political frame and therefore in breach of the consitutional arrangements.
Sussex Police campaigns against speeders
Sussex Police regularly enforce the existing speed limits and, from time to time, engage in specific exercises to clamp down on people who break the speed limit on our local roads. One such campaign came to an end yesterday and resulted in over 3,000 drivers caught speeding. With a combination of cameras, officers experienced in this particular task and clearly signposted speed limits, this is particularly easy police work.
Media reports that Sussex Police will not enforce new limit
Despite the obvious need for the police to remain politically neutral and the fact that the proposed lower speed limit being politically contentious, local media has reported that the police has declared that it will not enforce the new limit, if it is brought into force. Here’s some of these local media reports:
Both these media organisations claim to be reputable. Yet both have inserted an unattributed claim into their reports that Sussex Police have declared the proposed limit will have to be self-enforcing. Neither the Argus nor the BBC have included any explanation of the rarity of such a claim, let along any commentary on the potential risk of it giving rise to the perception that the police have become political.
Scarcely able to believe what I was reading, I telephoned Sussex Police to check the facts. Sussex Police have confirmed to me that they are aware that traffic calming measures will be introduced to facilitate the enforcement of the new lower speed limit. Sussex Police have also confirmed to me that they will be enforcing the limit themselves, as they would do with any other speed limit. I’ve suggested that Sussex Police put out a public statement confirming that that they will enforce the new speed limit.
Whilst the Brighton Argus is famous for not bothering to check facts, the BBC’s reputation is considerably better. Both of these organisations have slurred the police by putting them in the political frame. At best, this is shabby journalism. At worst, it is an example of the media manipulating the local political debate.
Did Labour Party policy rest on false reportage of Sussex Police?
Since the Labour Party’s opposition to the new limit appeared to rest on the police position, as reported by the media, presumably they will now be in favour of the new speed limit?