Boost for 20mph zones as Lib Dems defeated

SPEED limits of 20 mph could be imposed across residential areas of Sheffield after opposition parties on the council defeated the ruling Liberal Democrats.

Two Green councillors were supported by Labour in a move that commits the authority to a more comprehensive strategy of making roads safer by reducing speed limits on suburban roads – and in a reflection of the knife-edge of local politics.

Current council policy is to allow individual community assemblies to decide what is best for their own areas.

Green councillor Rob Murphy said: ‘We’ve campaigned for a long time to persuade the council to support our call for a city-wide 20 mph limit on residential streets.

“We won the argument against the Lib Dems’ policy of passing responsibility on to community assemblies, even though these assemblies don’t have the budgets for widespread 20 mph schemes.

“We now call on the Lib Dem administration to respect this democratic decision and bring forward plans for a city-wide scheme that will reduce accidents and save lives.”

The Liberal Democrats, who are the biggest party at the town hall but have no overall majority, also lost a key vote on housing policy.

It means £800,000 of Sheffield Homes’ £29.9m budget for 2011/12 set aside for a range of community projects will now go into the management company’s general budget for “improved tenants’ services”.

Lib Dem council leader Paul Scriven said: “I’m shocked that Labour and the Greens have axed funding for dozens of community projects in the name of pay rises for Sheffield Homes staff, including top managers. These projects would have brought countless benefits to tenants.”

Opposition parties also won a motion criticising the Government for dropping the Education Maintenance Allowance – payments of up to £30 a week for further education students.

The Lib Dem defeats underline their vulnerability as they finalise crucial spending plans for the next year.