Preston’s councillors criticised for “embarrassing” emails

City councillors have been attacked by a colleague for “embarrassing” political debates via email.

Private discussions had been had between Labour and Conservative members surrounding the proposed 20mph speed limit across Preston.

Plans have been put in place for the whole of the city’s residential roads to be 20mph – a move that is costing £9m.
Cllr John Potter, of Cadley, said members of the council were “boring and utterly embarrassing. [They are] just party political donkeys obsessed with point scoring.”

But Potter has come under heavy fire from fellow councillor Drew Gale, who branded him as naïve.

“It was a little bit of banter rather than an argument. There was no animosity or malice in it,” said Cllr Gale.

“The main protagonists were myself, Cllr Sam Gardiner and Cllr Geoff Driver. They are not personal issues and we’ve spoken about it since.

“We have very hard jobs and sometimes those political arguments with a bit of humour thrown in can be a bit of a release for us.

“If an outsider who wasn’t involved thinks that way then it’s a bit naive. We quite enjoyed it.”

Cllr John Bruton said it is inevitable that emails can move away from the issue.

“It was an argument. It didn’t get overly abusive and changed into an argument about national economics as these things do which is away from the subject,” he said.

“The two parties aren’t completely different. There are people from each side who see things differently but it is now policy so they can’t change it.”

The cost of the plans has come into question. Cllr Gale believes the money has other uses elsewhere.

“The proposals are absolutely ludicrous They say we’re going to educate people and put some signs up. But how are you going to stop drivers going over 20mph?” he said.

“They’re spending £9m on educating people putting road signs up. In these troubled times when people are losing their jobs there are better uses for that money.

“A leaflet drop is happening and they’re incredibly expensive. There will be road shows and press releases – the whole thought process around it is stupid.”

It is argued that the scheme could be crucial in tackling road accidents. Cllr Bruton said: “In Preston we have a very poor record with child safety on the roads – one of the worst in the country. If we can do anything to make that better than we should do it.

“The example that is always put forward is Portsmouth. They have this policy and they claim it benefited people a great deal.”

Portsmouth City Council have since gone back to 30mph zones and Cllr Gale is worried about the practicalities of it.

“Apparently they’re going to give members of the public speed cameras – that’s one of the fallacies I heard,” he said.

“You’re placing residents in a position of harm. We have a duty to members of the public we’re giving these to. I dread to think what a motorist is going to do when he sees someone stood on a street corner zapping him.”

Road signs have already been erected in some areas of Preston, with the first 20mph zone coming in Ashton.

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