COVENTRY council officials have admitted ongoing road safety issues are being investigated, opposition councillors have revealed – despite leaders’ previous denials and refusals to apologise to a campaigner who continues to highlight the problem.
Road safety campaigner Richard Heneghan came to prominence when challenging leading councillors over wrong signage at bus gates, and calling them to account over their failure to systematically write to all motorists wrongly fined for entering them.
He has continued his tireless work in surveying the city’s streets in search of inaccurate and missing signs, in the public interest, bringing ‘errors’ to the attention of opposition councillors to raise with officers, and in the council chamber.
Now Conservative councillor Tim Mayer and shadow city services councillor Gary Ridley have met with council officers to discuss his concerns over a ‘no entry’ sign at the junction of Well Street and Corporation Street, signage issues at Wheelwright Lane, Hen Lane and other locations.
It followed a comment in a full council meeting last December by cabinet member for city services, Labour councillor Jayne Innes, that all Coventry City signs were fully compliant with Department for Transport regulations and there were no issues.
She had also refused to apologise to Mr Heneghan as had her predecessor, councillor Rachel Lancaster – when both of them had claimed all signs had been DfT complaint.
It was despite claims to the contrary by Alan Duncan MP, chair of the Commons’ road signs taskforce, who had written to council chief executive Martin Reeves in Feburary last year. Mr Duncan had fired a warning about Coventry’s “systematic sloppiness and obstinancy” regarding road safety issues.
Various attempts by Mr Heneghan to uncover more information by lodging Freedom of Information requests with the council were blocked, with the local authority controversially giving the reason that his determined persistence was ‘vexatious’ conduct.
Coun Mayer divulged to the Coventry Observer regarding the meeting with council officers two weeks ago: “In the meeting it was made clear that there are certain issues that the council is going to put right and there are other areas where officers are continuing to investigate. We asked that a review of signage be considered and were told that this could not happen due to resource.”
He added: “With the increasing numbers of vehicles on Coventry roads we need to make sure that traffic signs give road users the information they need to use roads safely and efficiently. I am pleased officers are now looking at the concerns raised and hope any errors will be rectified.”
Couns Ridley and Mayer added they hoped the council would “get better at removing road signs and information those that are confusing or unnecessary”.
They said they “hope Coun Innes will look a little deeper into her portfolio and put road safety at the forefront of her mind when looking at future signage concerns brought to her by members of the public.”
Mr Heneghan said: “First and foremost, I am pleased to learn that after a number of years of claiming otherwise, Coventry council have finally admitted that Coventry does indeed have issues regarding its road safety and road signage.
“However, it also serves to highlight that for two years senior cabinet members and officers have been making statements which they knew, or should have known, to be incorrect.
“It is of great concern that the council have advised couns Mayer & Ridley that the council do not have the resource to carry out a review of signage but were nevertheless happy to allow cabinet members to continue to make unsubstantiated, incorrect claims of ‘no issues’ and ‘full DfT compliance’ in full council meetings.
“I would urge senior officers to put aside any enmity and engage with me over the existing safety issues in Coventry.”
* The council responded with the following statement.
“Road signs around the city are installed in line with current guidelines and legislation and every effort is made to ensure these are accurate at the time they are introduced.
“Obviously, over time, some changes are brought in to the roads network and to the laws themselves, and some signs may need to be modified to reflect those changes.
“We do routinely inspect signs and will investigate any issues that are reported and alter signs where necessary. The safety of drivers and pedestrians around the city is of the utmost importance and we appreciate the help of residents in bringing these issues to our attention.
“If people believe there are any issues, please contact us via our website or on 024 7683 3333.”