Audit of Wirral Council's Pedestrian Safety Performance: Summary

Wirral Council has been given a "very poor" rating in a January 2016 audit of its performance regarding pedestrian safety [1] (see full report here) .

Aspects considered with ratings

Pedestrian casualties and road danger Poor
Reporting of pedestrian casualties Very poor
Pedestrian Safety Plan Very poor
Speed limits and compliance Poor
Illegal parking Very poor
'A' boards and other pavement hazards Very poor
Overall Performance Very poor

Failings identified

Failures and areas of concern include the following.
  • Wirral Council is in the bottom third of local authorities for reported pedestrian serious injuries; and for child pedestrians, it is in the bottom fifth.
  • Despite the poor figures, Wirral Council has persistently claimed good pedestrian casualty figures, and this continued despite Ofsted criticism. For example, a report claimed that child pedestrian casualty figures "remain low" when in reality they were double the national average.
  • It is claimed that a Pedestrian Action Plan has been developed, but in reality there is just a list of unfunded options.
  • On current figures, 11 pedestrians will be killed in the next 5 years, and 150 will be seriously injured including 60 seriously injured children, but there is no comprehensive plan to try to stop this.
  • Pleas from people with disabilities suffering from illegal parking have been answered by a failure to take effective action together with continued illegal parking by Council vehicles.
  • Regarding advertising boards and other pavement hazards, Council officers ignore Council policy, and failed to perform a proper Equality Impact Assessment of a recent policy change.

Individuals responsible

  • Cllr Phil Davies (Leader, Wirral Council)
  • Cllr Stuart Whittingham (Cabinet Member for Highways and Infrastructure)
  • Eric Robinson (Chief Executive, Wirral Council)
  • Mark Smith (Head of Environment and Regulation)

Preliminary (November 2015) draft version and responses received

A draft version of the document [2] (see here) was circulated in November 2015 to the responsible individuals (as above) and to others in order that
  • errors and omissions could be corrected
  • unfair judgements could be challenged.
The aim was a transparent process that would result in an evidence-based consensus on the current situation regarding pedestrian safety on the Wirral.

Responses were received from 21 people. These responses are published online [3] (see here) together with the changes made to the document as a result.

Two responses were received from the responsible individuals within Wirral Council:
Mr Robinson replied to say that he was referring the document to Mr Smith for his attention.
Mr Smith did not reply.
Cllr Davies did not reply.
Cllr Whittingham merely replied:
I would comment that the records provided to the Council by the police show that there has been a significant reduction in the number of pedestrian related injury crashes during the last ten years reflecting the hard work of the Council and other partners.
The comment about "a significant reduction" in pedestrian-related injury crashes is very disappointing as it ignores the concern in Section 3 of the Audit that the figures for the last 5 years are poor with no sign of improvement.
The assumption that the fall in pedestrian casualties compared to ten years ago "reflects the hard work of the Council and other partners" is also very disappointing - it is an example of "unsubstantiated claims for credit for casualty reductions" that was criticised in Section 4 of the Audit.

In none of the responses was there any disagreement with the ratings given or a suggestion for a major change in the report except that two responses suggested that there should be recommendations for action, which were added in the final January 2016 version.

There were numerous suggestions for minor changes which were mostly accommodated [3] (see here).

Final (January 2016) version and responses received

The final version of the report [1] was circulated in January 2016 with the recommendations that Wirral Council should
  • apologise for the very poor performance regarding pedestrian safety
  • explain why the performance has been so poor
  • state what will be done to correct the poor performance
  • give a timescale for when a proper service for pedestrians will be provided.

It was circulated to the four responsible individuals in Wirral Council (as above), the other Wirral Council party leaders, the four Wirral MPs, and others. The responses are published online [3] (see here).

Three MPs (Frank Field, Alison McGovern and Margaret Greenwood), replied expressing concern about pedestrian safety.

No direct response was received from Cllr Davies, Cllr Whittingham, Mr Robinson, or Mr Smith.

Mr Smith, in a reply to Margaret Greenwood MP, stated:
You will be aware that we now have a new Wirral Plan with twenty pledges across the themes of People, Business and Environment and this has been signed up to by all key partners. One of these pledges is to "ensure that Wirral has safe, affordable, well maintained and efficient transport networks" and it is proposed that our approach to road safety including that of vulnerable road users will be reviewed as part of developing the strategy and delivery plan to achieve this pledge.

In addition, Mr Campbell's report was the subject of a Notice of Motion to Council on 14th March by Cllrs Cleary (Green Party) and Gilchrist (Liberal Democrat) and it was agreed that the matter would be passed to the relevant Policy & Performance Committee to be considered during the coming year.

Mr Smith referred to the Wirral Plan and so it is very disappointing that he concealed from Margaret Greenwood that the latest update (the Delivery Plan Phase 1 [4]) included a commitment that:
By the end of March 2016, we will:
  • Develop a new Road Safety Strategy, based on detailed insight
but that no Strategy has yet been produced. He should have been honest about this failure, given an explanation, and given a new timescale for the production of the Strategy.

It is also very disappointing that Mr Smith refers to the matter being considered "over the coming year" - indicating a lack of urgency.

Criticisms of Wirral councillors and officers

Taking into account the concerns included in the Audit and the replies (and lack of them) from the responsible individuals in Wirral Council, the following criticisms can be made.

Denial and complacency
  • An Ofsted Report warned Wirral Council that it was underestimating some important weaknesses regarding road safety.
  • Further instances of complacency were described in the Audit
  • Cllr Whittingham's response was yet another complacent statement (about a significant reduction in crashes) which completely ignored the concern that over the last 5 years, pedestrian casualty figures have been poor with no sign of improvement
  • There has been no public acceptance that pedestrian safety is significantly worse than it could be.

Lack of honesty, evasion and prevarication
  • The Audit drew attention to a false claim that Merseyside has an action plan for adult pedestrian casualties
  • In his response to Margaret Greenwood MP, Mark Smith quoted from the Wirral Plan as if progress on road safety is on schedule, but concealed from her that a new road safety strategy should have been completed by the end of March 2016, but this has not been done.
  • The Wirral Plan emphasizes working alongside partners, but there has been no genuine engagement with the concerns set out in the Audit which are not just the author's but are shared by many people.
  • Mr Smith's comment that pedestrian safety will be considered "during the coming year" shows a lack of urgency.

Indifference to the needs of vulnerable people
  • The Wirral Plan pledges "to protect our most vulnerable citizens", but the Audit gives many examples of pleas for help from vulnerable people being ignored.
  • The Audit pointed out that an Equality Impact Assessment had been performed incorerctly (and illegally). Snce these Assessments are vital to ensuring that the needs of people with disabilities are being met, it would be expected that Wirral Council would perform an evaluation of whether this was a one-off failure or part of a systematic failure throughout Wirral Council, and that an appropriate educational programme would be started - but it seems that none of this has happened.
  • These failures undermine the credibility of the whole Wirral Plan programme.

A level of neglect that should not be tolerated

The Audit pointed out that over the next 5 years, we can expect that 60 child pedestrians will be seriously injured (and this is just one of the consequences) [1].

It is clear that
  • the individuals in Wirral Council responsible for pedestrian safety are not following best practice in many areas of pedestrian safety
  • vulnerable Wirral children and adults are suffering as a result
  • there are other local authorities with much better pedestrian safety policies and much better pedestrian casualty figures
  • there is little sign of the responsible individuals trying to improve or even acknowledge that they need to improve.

In a civilised society, we have an expectation of those with a duty of care that they carry out their duties assiduously.
  • We expect health professionals to follow best practice - or they have to appear before their professional body with the possibility of being struck off their professional register.
  • We expect social services departments to give a high standard of child protection from parental abuse - or investigations are instituted as in Birmingham and Haringey Councils.
  • We expect that councils and police forces give a high standard of protection against child sexual exploitation - and do not accept the neglect that occurred in Rotherham and Rochdale.
  • We expect that vulnerable adults are charged appropriately for services - and when overcharging by Wirral Council is exposed (as investigated by the Klonowski report), we say this is unacceptable.

There is no reason why we should not also expect a high standard of care from councils and police forces in protecting pedestrians from the danger from motor vehicles. When people are injured in road collisions and taken to hospital, we expect a high level of professionalism from those treating the injuries. We should expect a similar high level of professionalism from those entrusted with preventing these injuries.

Wirral Council has been criticised in the past for its care of vulnerable people and it appears that there remains a culture of indifference to their needs.

How should concerned citizens respond?

The Audit pointed out that over the next 5 years, we can expect that 60 child pedestrians will be seriously injured (and this is just one of the consequences) [1].

Should we just watch as, one by one, these 60 children are knocked down? One child has already been knocked down in West Kirby in 2016 and suffered a serious head injury in an area where a request for a lower speed limit was refused by Wirral Council in 2015 [5]. Should we do nothing, knowing that these injuries are often preventable?

Surely, there is a clear moral responsibility to take action.

Outside intervention

As correspondence within Wirral has not achieved any improvement, outside intervention of some kind is necessary. It is not clear what channels for this are available as road safety is no longer inspected by Ofsted, and it does not come under any other regulatory body. But outside intervention of some kind is needed.

The possibilities include requests for intervention by
  • the Department for Transport
  • the Labour Party Leader and Shadow Transport Team
  • the House of Commons Transport Select Committee
  • the Local Government Association
  • the Crown Prosecution Service Mersey-Cheshire.

Reduced Council Tax payments

Concerned citizens should also consider whether a part of their Council Tax payment is being misused by being used to pay individuals who are neglecting their duties. A deduction of a percentage of their Council Tax payment would be appropriate - otherwise the citizens are acquiescing in the neglect.


[1] Audit of Wirral Council's Pedestrian Safety Performance
[2] The draft version is published at
[3] The responses are available at
[4] Wirral Council (October 2015) The Wirral Plan: A 2020 Vision; Delivery Plan - Phase One - or download from here.
[5] Teenager remains in critical condition following West Kirby hit and run (March 2016)


The reports were written by Ian Campbell MD ( with assistance from colleagues in Wirral Pedestrians Association and Merseyside Cycling Campaign.