Cheshire West and Chester Council spent nearly £40,000 on a roadside census earlier this month, during which 21,930 survey postcards were handed out to passing motorists.
Carried out over three days from 4th to 7th November 2019, a total of £29,562 was spent on the costs of carrying out the ‘Road Side Interview census surveys’. An additional £10,417 was paid to Cheshire Police to cover the cost of deploying four or five police officers on the roadside census points each day.
Combined, the cost for the whole operation, revealed using the Freedom of Information Act, was £39,979.
The Council wanted to know the origins and destinations of trips using Chester’s inner ring road to update the area’s ‘Traffic Transport Model’. They said this was: “originally built in 2007 and then revalidated in 2010 to inform ongoing transport strategy development. The model is to be updated through the roadside interview surveys and traffic counts.”
If it’s the police, then yes it’s illegal. But once you pull over you have the right to refuse to do the census.— PB: Vote Labour 🌹 (@p____m____b) November 6, 2019
Cheshire Live reported on the traffic census at the time, saying drivers were also asked about their vehicle, their number of passengers and their reason for travel. They previously reported the 2010 census update caused “mammoth rush hour delays“.
A police officer would slow traffic before census staff handed drivers a postcard, to be completed and returned to a Freepost address. Those that completed the survey were entered into a prize draw for either £50 or £100 of shopping vouchers.
It wasn’t mandatory for drivers to return the forms, with one saying he “just threw it in the bin”, and the council are yet to reveal how many of the 21,930 distributed were returned.
The census points were operational from 7am to 7pm each day, except on 7th November when police deemed working in the highway unsafe due to adverse weather conditions.
They were in place on the A51 approach to The Bars roundabout and on the Hoole Way approach to the ‘Supertrees’ roundabout on Monday 4th November. No census took place on Tuesday 5th, but the points then set up at the Parkgate Road / Cheyney Road junction and Liverpool Road on Wednesday 6th.
On the final day, census points were moved to the Grosvenor Roundabout, on Nuns Road and on Sealand Road on Thursday 7th November.
Following speculation an error had been made in giving out postcards with the ‘site ID’ and ‘time of issue’ fields left blank, the Council said: “Each postcard has a unique serial number relating to the point of issue, this automatically captures the information required for these two questions.”