Audit of Wirral Council's Pedestrian Safety Performance
1. SummaryThis updated document presents an audit of the performance of Wirral Council in protecting pedestrians. An earlier draft version was circulated in November 2015 to the relevant Wirral councillors and officers and others so that errors and omissions could be corrected and judgements could be challenged.
The standards used are
The ratings given are as follows.
Conclusions: Wirral Council is performing poorly or very poorly in aspects of pedestrian safety, and vulnerable people are suffering as a consequence. Major changes are needed.
Individuals Responsible for Pedestrian Safety within Wirral Council
Audit written by: Ian Campbell MD with assistance from colleagues in Wirral Pedestrians Association and Merseyside Cycling Campaign.
2. Standards used in judging Wirral CouncilThe performance of Wirral Council is judged against the following standards.
Protection of human rightsThe United Nations agreed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights  in 1948 and declared that people have a right to life (Article 3), and a right to freedom of movement (Article 13). Consequently, people have a right to travel safely on foot. Also (via Article 8) people have a right to effective legal remedies if this right is not respected.
There are similar articles in the European Convention on Human Rights .
Statutory requirementsThe statutory responsibilities of a Highway Authority for road safety
Under the 1988 Road Traffic Act, local authorities have a statutory responsibility for road safety. Section 39 of the Act  includes the following requirements of local authorities :
prepare and carry out a programme of measures designed to promote road safety; conduct studies into accidents on roads, other than trunk roads within their area; take appropriate measures to prevent such accidents including the dissemination of information and advice relating to the use of the roads; the giving of practical training to road users;...
The Equality Act (2010) places a duty on public authorities to promote equality of opportunity and not discriminate on grounds of sex, age, and disability . The Equality Act has been used to challenge failures to provide tactile paving, so it does apply to the street environment . Local authorities have an obligation to carry out Equality Impact Assessments on all policies .
Wirral Council's ConstitutionThe Council's Constitution  states six principles of decision making (Section 13.2), including
(c) respect for human rights;
(d) a presumption in favour of openness;
(e) clarity of aims and desired outcomes;
Wirral Council's commitmentsWirral Council has made some additional commitments in its Wirral Council Plan: A 2020 Vision  of June 2015, together with the Delivery Plan Phase 1  of October 2015.
The Wirral Council Plan contains some pledges:
...continuing to seek out examples of good practice from other local authorities and service providers both nationally and internationally. [page 4]
...We will support older people to live independently in their homes and help prevent social isolation. [page 8]
...Ensure that Wirral has safe, affordable, well maintained and efficient transport networks for residents to access community services, enjoy our leisure facilities and commute to work. [page 20]
...We want all of our residents to have a good quality of life and live healthy lifestyles in clean and safe environments. [page 23]
...We remain committed to addressing health inequalities in Wirral through encouraging residents to lead healthier lifestyles, and promoting physical activity and healthy eating. [page 26]
...Our aim is quite simply to be the best Council in the country [their emphasis, page 34]
A separate commitment was given via Wirral Council's membership of the Merseyside Integrated Transport Authority (joined with the other four Merseyside councils). This Authority agreed its Third Local Transport Plan  in 2011 with the following vision of making sustainable transport the option of choice:
A city region, committed to a low carbon future which has a transport network and mobility culture that positively contributes to a thriving economy and the health and wellbeing of its citizens and where sustainable travel is the option of choice.Making sustainable travel "the option of choice" implies making walking much more safe and attractive than it has been.
Best practice elsewhereWirral Council's policies and practice in protecting pedestrians should be
If there are any impediment (e.g. budget constraints) that prevents Wirral Council giving a first rate service to pedestrians, the Council should clearly state this so that it can be rectified.
The rating scale used to judge Wirral CouncilThe following rating scale was used.
3. Wirral Pedestrian Casualties: Poor
SummaryWirral Council's rate of serious pedestrian casualties is poor and not improving.
Wirral Council's rate is in the bottom third of highway authoritiesWirral Council is in the bottom third of highway authorities (ranked 141 out of 206) for reported killed or seriously injured (KSI) pedestrians per 100,000 population in 2010-14 . The total in the five-year period was 161 pedestrians reported as killed or seriously injured.
For children, the rate is in the bottom fifth of highway authoritiesFor child pedestrians reported as killed or seriously injured per 100,000 children in 2010-14, Wirral Council is in the bottom fifth of highway authorities (ranked 174 out of 206) . The total of 59 children was 49% above the national average, and there were 63 local authorities that had rates of less than half that of Wirral Council. ('Children' refers to the age range of 0 - 15 years.)
These figures are not improvingThere are no signs of a reduction in these figures over the last 5 years, as shown by the two charts .
Wirral has a history of poor road casualty figuresIn 2008, the Wirral Globe reported that Wirral had the worst record of deaths and serious injury due to road traffic collisions of any metropolitan area in the country .
Poor child cyclist KSI rateIt is also relevant that Wirral Council has a child cyclist KSI rate that is double the national average - the Wirral total of 17 seriously injured children in the 5 years of 2010-14 is a rate of 28.6 per 100,000 children, which is double the national average rate of 14.4 per 100,000 children.
4. Reporting of Pedestrian Casualties: Very poor
SummaryWirral Council has a record of overemphasizing its progress in reducing child pedestrian casualties. The best practice is to give an honest assessment of the casualty situation; for example, Birmingham City Council in its draft Road Safety Strategy  drew attention to its high rate of child KSI casualties per head of population in certain areas.
It is poor that Wirral Council has a bad child pedestrian serious casualty rate, and that it has given misleading statements about the situation. It is very poor that the misleading statements have continued despite Ofsted criticism. If officers and councillors do not acknowledge that they have a problem with child pedestrian casualties, they are very unlikely to devise the best policies to deal with it.
Ofsted Criticism 2008An Ofsted report of 2008  criticized Wirral Council in its performance assessment under the heading of "Staying Safe":
The council's analysis of its strengths and areas for development in this outcome area underestimate a number of important weaknesses and overvalue the areas where progress has been made.giving the reasons as
Progress on reducing the number of road traffic accidents [involving children] ... has not been sufficient to raise performance to the level of similar councils.and
the reduction in the numbers of children killed or seriously injured in road traffic accidents is falling at a significantly slower rate than nationally or in similar councils.This was highlighted as an "important weakness" in the Council's provision of services to children. The Council was given a "Grade Two" mark on a one-to-four scale.
Misleading Officer Report 2010Instances of misleading reporting of pedestrian casualties have continued despite the Ofsted criticism. In 2010, officers gave a report to the Sustainable Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee  and stated (para 4.9, referring to the 2009 figures) that
Child pedestrian KSI casualties remain lowand yet the Wirral figure was actually double the national average - the 2009 Wirral rate of reported child pedestrian KSI casualties was 29.0 per 100,000 children (17 in a Wirral population of 58,700) which was double the national average of 14.8 per 100,000 children (1660 in a population of 11.23 million children) .
Misleading Cabinet Member Statement to Council 2015Cllr Stuart Whittingham, at the Wirral Council meeting of 6 July 2015  gave an update on Wirral's highways including the statement that Wirral:
now had some of the best roads in the countryThis comment can be criticised as meaningless, as it is likely that most highway authorities can identify some of their roads that could be classed as "some of the best in the country". More seriously, as a statement was being made comparing Wirral with other highway authorities, it was an opportunity for him to alert councillors to
Unsubstantiated claims for credit for casualty reductionsThere are numerous instances of officers claiming credit for falls in Wirral casualties. It is true that Wirral casualty numbers have fallen for most modes of travel compared with 20 years ago. Whilst all of the falls may be due to officers' actions, it is also possible (or likely) that at least some of the fall is due to other factors such as safer car design, or the documented decline in children and adults walking. So claiming credit for all of the fall in reported casualties may lead to complacency and to other effective interventions being overlooked.
5. Overall Pedestrian Safety Plan: Very poor
SummarySection 3 presented the evidence that if nothing is done, 160 Wirral pedestrians will be seriously injured or killed in the next 5 years. Wirral Council has no stated ambition and no comprehensive plan to prevent these casualties.
The problemWirral Council's rate of serious pedestrian casualties is poor and not improving (Section 3). Based, on the number of casualties in the last 5 years , the following can be anticipated in the coming 5 years.
The best local authorities have pedestrian casualty rates less than half that of the Wirral, so there is an excess of 80 serious injuries or deaths that can potentially be prevented. Wirral has many routes that are unsafe for pedestrians such as roads with no footway, footways blocked by parked cars, and unsafe crossing points.
Best practice: a comprehensive road safety planBest practice includes the following steps
The elements of these pedestrian safety plans include
Examples are Bristol , Birmingham , and London .
Wirral Council: a failure to planDespite its poor figures, Wirral Council currently has no comprehensive plan to make roads safer for pedestrians and reduce pedestrian KSI casualties. There is a commitment in the Council's 2020 Vision Delivery Plan Phase 1  that
By the end of March 2016, we will:and so the performance may improve in this regard.
Develop a new Road Safety Strategy, based on detailed insight.
There is no comprehensive plan to introduce 20mph speed limits in residential, retail and learning locations (see next section). The Council has merely allocated small sums of money to Constituency Committees (area committees) for minor projects, without providing any estimate of the overall effectiveness of this policy.
Merseyside Transport Partnership's sham 'Action plan'Wirral Council is part of the Merseyside Transport Partnership (with the other Merseyside councils). The Partnership's Annual Progress Report for 2013/14  states that
The Merseyside Road Safety Partnership has developed action plans setting out initiatives to improve the safety of the groups most at risk of being killed or seriously injured. The action plans cover:This sounds impressive, but the truth is that, for adult pedestrians, no action plan has been produced. The 'action plan' for adult pedestrians  (obtained via a Freedom of Information request) is merely a list of unfunded options of unproven effectiveness.
It is very poor that the Partnership claims to have produced an action plan to tackle pedestrian casualties when it has not.
6. Lower Speed Limits and Better Compliance: Poor
SummaryWirral Council has no comprehensive plan to reduce speed limits or improve compliance with speed limits; its plans are limited to some small scale 20mph areas.
The current situation
Best practiceIt is now widely accepted that best practice is to consider introducing wide-area 20mph speed limits on all residential streets, retail streets, and streets around schools and colleges. For example, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has recommended  that local authorities "introduce engineering measures to reduce speed as part of a broad strategy to prevent injuries and the risk of injuries" including 20 mph limits and zones on appropriate roads.
The North West Public Health Observatory has estimated that such a scheme would save five Wirral children each year from being seriously injured or killed .
Many local authorities have introduced or are currently introducing 20mph speed limits on the majority of their streets. Examples include Cheshire West and Chester , Lancashire, Calderdale  and Warrington.
Wirral PolicyWirral Council did pass a plan in 2012 for wide area 20mph speed limits, with £1.1million of funding allocated over 3 years, but this was cancelled in 2013 . Coincidentally, £1.1million is the same amount as Wirral Council is planning to spend on removing the pedestrianisation in Hamilton Square, Birkenhead, in order to increase motor vehicle traffic through the Square.
Wirral Council's policy on where 20mph speed limits can be introduced was explained by Mark Smith at the December 2014 Wirral Council Joint Pedestrian/Cycling Forum. As it appeared to differ substantially from the latest Department for Transport's guidelines , Mark Smith was asked to circulate the Council's policy in writing, in order to assist volunteers campaigning for safer roads. He agreed to respond, but he has so far (as at November 2015) failed to do so.
7. Illegal Parking: Very poor
SummaryVulnerable people have had distressing experiences and have been asking for illegal parking especially pavement parking to be tackled for over 7 years. Wirral Council's response has been evasion and prevarication, in breach of its statutory responsibility. Effectively, the pleas for assistance from the most vulnerable of road users are being met by a refusal to help.
Vulnerable people affected: four groups with case histories
The website of the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association now has over 1000 photos on its website showing their concern at the problem of pavement parking - several of these are on the Wirral including the one lower right.
Education: Wirral Council's failure to give clear guidanceWebsite guidance
Furthermore, Mark Smith, Kevin Adderley and Eric Robinson have all refused to make clear statements on the legality of parking such as the Wirral Council vehicle parked completely on a pavement:
Flyers, posters, stickers and letters
Infrastructure: Best practice and Wirral policy
Lack of coordination with Merseyside PoliceAfter 7 years of vulnerable people asking for help with pavements blocked by parked vehicles, there is still no co-ordination between Merseyside Police and Wirral Council - see quotes:
1. Jane Kennedy, Merseyside Police & Crime Commissioner (her email of 23 June 2014):
Controlling pavement parking is entirely a matter for Wirral MBC2. Eric Robinson, Wirral Council Chief Executive (his email of 20 July 2015):
Wirral Council have no powers to deal with parking on pavements. It is a police matter
Parking on pavements is causing a lot of problems for vulnerable pedestrians. When they ask for help, people in positions of authority should ensure they get it.
Wirral Council setting a poor exampleDespite many complaints to senior officers, Council vehicles are still being parked on pavements (as above) . Also there are several credible reports of councillors parking on pavements.
8. 'A' boards and other pavement hazards: Very poor
SummaryThe pleas of visually impaired and other vulnerable people are being met with a refusal by Wirral Council officers to take action.
How vulnerable people are affectedVisually impaired people: The following excerpt is from an October 2013 letter to Wirral Council from an elderly Wirral resident with severe visual impairment.
Is permission given to retailers and other providers in Heswall Centre to display advertising placards on pavements some of which interfere with normal footfall? At the moment the pavements are cluttered with these objects and are a particular hazard to visually disabled persons such as myself.The resident tries to walk daily in order to maintain his mobility and social contact. He did not receive a satisfactory reply, and a 2014 survey of Heswall by Wirral Pedestrians Association found numerous 'A' boards in breach of Wirral Council's policy. Nationally, inappropriately placed 'A' boards is one of the current Guide Dogs campaigns.
People with restricted mobility also find 'A' boards and shop displays a hazard, especially those in wheelchairs
Poor publicity of Wirral Council's policyPrior to November 2014, Wirral Council's policy was clearly explained via a web page with downloadable guidance . This policy had been agreed in 2011 via an extensive consultation process. It included detailed guidance concerning dimensions and positioning, including that
The policy was modified in November 2014 by Cllr Stuart Whittingham (the Cabinet Member) accepting the recommendation from an officers' report . This report recommended the removal of the need for licensing, but there was no change to the guidance concerning dimensions and positioning, and Mark Smith confirmed at the December 2014 Pedestrian/Cycling Joint Forum (Item 2) that there were no changes in the criteria 
MS confirmed that in relation to the change in procedural approach, the criteria will remain the same, there just won't be licensing. That is all that will change.However, the detailed guidance was removed from the Council's website. The only guidance published now (November 2015) is the following vague statement .
The 'A' board, object or display must relate to the trade of the business and be placed next to the front of the premises. The display must be fit for purpose and cause no potential significant hazard, nuisance or obstruction.
Directional 'A' boards will not be permitted away from the premises.
It is now very difficult for any business or anyone concerned about threats to vulnerable people to establish what criteria form the Council's policy.
Invalid Equality Impact AssessmentAn Equality Impact Assessment  was carried out as part of the November 2014 Report proposing the change to the 'A' boards and shop display policy. The Assessment was invalid. The procedure should have looked at the impact of the proposed change in policy (the removal of the requirement to apply for a licence), but in the completed Assessment, under the question of which groups might be affected and how (Section 4), it was stated that the impact on Disability groups will be
Favourable impact - allows disabled people to move freely along the highwaySo what was considered was the impact of the principle of having a policy, rather than the impact of the change under consideration, and the Assessment was not a valid one.
This raises the question of which other Equality Impact Assessments performed by Wirral Council have not been carried out properly.
Officers ignore the Council's policy when inspecting streetsIt is clear from the responses of Wirral Council officers that they take little notice of the Council's policy when inspecting 'A' boards and shop displays. Three examples follow.
1. Response from a Senior Enforcement Officer
In reply to a request for clarification of the criteria used, Rob Cain (a Wirral Council Senior Enforcement Officer) wrote (his email of 29 Jan 2014)
The highways inspectors ensure that there is sufficient unobstructed width for passage along the footway in the line of the main pedestrian traffic flow. As a rule of thumb a double buggy or wheelchair should be able to safely pass any items.The policy in Mr Cain's first paragraph (unobstructed width of allowing a double buggy or wheelchair) is very different to the Council's policy at that time obtained by following the link in Mr Cain's second paragraph , which specifies an unobstructed width of 2.0 metres, or 2.5 metres in busy areas.
Details of the Councils current approach to a-board permissions are on the Council website at http://www.wirral.gov.uk/my-services/business/licensing
2. Shop display in Moreton
A Moreton resident has repeatedly reported a shop in Moreton to Wirral Council for breaching the Council's guidance, including leaving just a narrow gap of 1 metre (forcing pedestrians into the carriageway), and extending across the frontages of neighbouring premises - see photos.
Wirral Council Officers have refused to take action, and furthermore, Mark Smith has written to the resident threatening him with legal action .
3. 'A' boards in West Kirby
Several 'A' boards in West Kirby were reported to Wirral Council as being in breach of the guidance through being positioned in the middle of the footway rather than adjacent to the business premises. The following response was typical "Inspection complete - no obstruction found wide footway", and the 'A' boards continue (at November 2015) to pose a hazard to visually impaired residents.
9. Conclusions1. Wirral Council has obligations to protect vulnerable pedestrians, particularly children, those with visual impairment, and those with restricted mobility and other disabilities.
2. Wirral Council has received many requests for help from and on behalf of these vulnerable people.
3. The responses from Wirral Council have been poor or very poor: actions that should have been obvious have not been taken and vulnerable people have suffered distress or been put at risk.
4. These failures constitute a failure of child protection and a failure to protect other vulnerable people. The current performance falls a long way short of commitments given in the Wirral Council Plan: A 2020 Vision , particularly the commitment
Ensuring the most vulnerable among us are safe, and feel safe, is perhaps our most important responsibility. We will work across Council and agency boundaries to promptly identify and tackle problems before they develop.Not only have problems not been tackled before they develop, but minimal action has been taken in response to pleas for help.
5. No progress has been made towards making "sustainable travel the option of choice" (the Vision of the Third Local Transport Plan for Merseyside ) - if anything conditions for walking have got worse.
10. RecommendationsWirral Council should
1. apologise for the very poor performance regarding pedestrian safety
2. explain why the performance has been so poor
3. state what will be done to correct the poor performance
4. give a timescale for when a proper service for pedestrians will be provided.
11. Relevant Background Information
Klonowski ReportWirral Council's care of vulnerable residents was heavily criticised in the Klonowski Report of 2011 .
Local Government Chronicle award of "Most improved council"In 2015, Wirral Council was given the award of "Most Improved Council" by the Local Government Chronicle .
12. Individuals Responsible within Wirral Council
|Last updated: 28 Jan 2016|