a vandalised 20mph sign
Road marking at Newport Road, New Inn, Pontypool showing the different speed limits and the vandalised signs. Credit: LDRS

Story by Twm Owen and Nicholas Thomas, local democracy service reporters

THERE have been at least 145 incidents of damage to speed limits signs across Gwent since September when the 20 mile per hour maximum came in. 

In the previous five years there were just 101 such incidents recorded by the area’s five councils. 

Figures show the highest number of incidents of vandalism or damage to speed limit signs were recorded in the Torfaen and Caerphilly borough council areas. 

In Torfaen the council said its officers have received reports and inspected 55 signs since September 1 last year. 

In Caerphilly the council said from September 1 to the start of February there were 48 reports of damage to signs and a further five of signs having been graffitied.  

The new default speed limit – which reduced the maximum speed vehicles can travel at from 30mph to 20 in most residential areas – came into force on September 17 last year and prompted a public backlash that led to more than 469,000 people signing a petition to “rescind and remove the disastrous” lower limit. 

The Welsh Government provided £34 million to Wales’ 22 councils for new signs required to alert drivers of the speed limit and since September there have been multiple reports of 20mph signs being vandalised, often with black spray paint obscuring the 20 figures. 

The Local Democracy Reporting Service obtained council figures for damage to signs. 

In Monmouthshire the council said since September it had recorded “at least 22” incidents of vandalism or damage to speed limit signs and it had “multiple” reports, which it described as at least four, in just three locations. 

The 20mph limit was trialed in Abergavenny and the Severnside area, including Caldicot, from 2022, and there had also been criticism and objections to the lower limit at that time. 

But Monmouthshire council reported just two incidents of damage or vandalism to speed limit signs during the past five years. 

In Torfaen the council recorded a total of 10 incidents of vandalism or damage to speed limit signs from 2019 to the 2022/23 financial year, with the most being four in 2021/22. 

In Blaenau Gwent the council said it has recorded 10 signs being “defaced” since September but just one incidence of vandalism or damage in the previous five years. 

It has spent £66 repairing the damaged signs since September while Caerphilly has said it has spent  £4,525.43 on repairing signs in the same period. It said it has put £10,000 of its Welsh Government grant for new signs, related to the 20mph limit, aside for repairs in the 2023/24 financial year. 

Newport City Council was unable to provide figures on the number of vandalism reports, but did say it had spent around £1,000 on repairing damaged signs since the national switch to 20mph. 

All councils said Welsh Government funding for new signs cover anticipated repair costs. 

Gwent Police figures show the force has recorded two incidents of vandalism to speed signs since September, leading to one person being arrested and charged. 

The force recorded eight incidents of speed limit sign vandalism in the five years before that, the figures show. 

In February the South Wales Argus reported Mark Lanchbury, 51, of Brynglas Avenue, Pontllanfraith, Blackwood pleaded guilty to causing criminal damage to a 20mph speed sign owned by Caerphilly council and was ordered to pay £1,285 in fines and costs. 

Lee Waters, the Welsh Government deputy minister responsible for overseeing the 20mph policy, this week said latest figures show 97 per cent of motorists are complying with the reduced limit that is intended to lead to fewer traffic accidents, injuries and deaths.