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Natasha Asghar, who represents the Welsh Conservatives, is one of four regional Senedd Members serving the South Wales East region. She is also the shadow transport minister.
Never before have I come across a topic which has got so many people talking than Labour’s impending rollout of blanket 20mph speed limits.
Due to hit our streets this weekend, this controversial policy has brought the Welsh public together – united in their dissatisfaction and opposition.
My constituents – and I represent over 600,000 people as South East Wales’ Member of the Welsh Parliament – have given me their verdict on the scheme during the summer.
Everyone I have spoken to are up in arms over this costly blanket move and are really worried about the impact this will have on their day-to-day lives and livelihoods.
They are furious with Labour ministers – and their coalition pals in Plaid Cymru – for pushing ahead with this scheme, which will deliver a whopping £9billion blow to the economy .
I’ve been against this policy – which comes with a price tag of more than £32m – from the very beginning and I’ve been relentless in pushing for it to be abandoned.
Sadly, despite some 100,000 residents signing various petitions to have the scheme scrapped and campaigns being launched, Labour ministers are turning a blind eye to the public’s legitimate concerns and are pushing ahead regardless.
Indeed, the Labour party, Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Parliament’s sole Lib Dem decided not to stand up for their constituents this week and vote with the Welsh Conservatives in an 11th hour debate to spike the scheme.
Instead, they voted to impose blanket 20mph speed limits right across the country.
I am not at all against 20mph speed limits. There is a need for them in busy areas such as outside schools, playgrounds, and high streets – but not a blanket move.
Evidence from Spain, a country which introduced similar measures a few years ago, keeps being used by the Welsh Government in an attempt to give their scheme credibility.
Yet they fail to mention Spain, like the rest of us, was in the thick of Covid with people not getting out and about as they normally would. So just how reliable is Spain’s data?
In fact, recent news showed Spain closed 2022 with substantially more road deaths than in 2021.
I seriously cannot believe the amount of people I’ve spoken to who are against Labour’s blanket 20mph speed limit project.
Earlier in the summer I met with several taxi drivers who were fearful of the impact the policy will have on their livelihood – and in turn their ability to provide for their families – as they are expecting to see a big drop in the number of fares they’ll be able to pick up each day.
Large retailers have warned tougher times are ahead for them when it comes to home deliveries or getting stock to supermarkets because of the lower speeds.
A retained firefighter I chatted with over the summer told me in no uncertain terms that the new 20mph speed limits would hamper emergency services response times as it will take longer for him to get from his house to the station.
The only people this policy will not affect is Labour ministers – the ones imposing the scheme – as they travel around in luxurious chauffeur-driven motors.
One of the main reasons I and so many other people are against this blanket 20mph scheme is the obscene amount of money involved.
Not a day goes by that we don’t hear a damning story about our struggling NHS, our crumbling public transport network, or our poor education standards.
The money being wasted on Labour’s vanity projects – such as 20mph, snapping up farms or propping up a failing airport – should be pumped into the things that really matter.
Labour ministers say this move is all about saving lives, well if they really want to save lives, they should be focusing their efforts on slashing NHS waiting lists and improving patient care because at the moment we’ve got residents sitting in A&E for hours waiting to be seen.
Since this madcap policy was first mooted, I have not missed an opportunity to raise residents’ concerns, ask questions or seek clarification.
And one question in particular the deputy minister for climate change, the man behind this 20mph idea, keeps swerving is: Is 20mph speed limits just the tip of the iceberg?
I have put this question to him several times because one local authority in North Wales emailed a resident saying: “Over the next 12 to 18 months further Welsh Government guidance is being provided to enable further speed changes to be reviewed, for example for 40mph, 50mph and National Speed Limit Roads.”
His refusal to answer leaves me fearing this is just the beginning with more drastic measures on the horizon for Wales – especially when it comes to transport.
Under Labour, Wales truly is on the road to becoming a place where people will not want to visit or invest.
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