Hertfordshire County Council has been accused of putting off the debate on bringing down traffic speeds in Watford's residential roads.

A "special meeting" was held at county hall today, attended by 20s Plenty campaigners, but it soon transpired the issue would not actually be discussed at all.

The issue surrounds a difference between the way the Department for Transport and the county council qualify which roads can be made 20mph zones - something campaigners claim stopping the traffic measure being brought into residential roads.

Instead, select members of the overview and scrutiny committee met and decided the issue would need to be brought before a full meeting in the autumn.

Allan Witherick, vice chairman of the overview and scrutiny committee, accused the council of putting this issue off, due to "Mañana syndrome".

He added: "I was a council officer in 2001 when 20mph zones were first on the agenda. What can we do to bring this forward? It’s ridiculous this is still dragging on after more than a decade.

"We were trying to get the issue moved forward and looked at before the end of March. Unfortunately this has turned into a meeting about having a meeting."

The current Department for Transport guidelines recommends that 20mph limits are considered in roads where the average speed is 24mph or below.

However, the county council uses a different measure in its speed policy, which only allows roads to be reduced to 20mph if "the 85th percentile speeds are at 24mph or below".

This difference in qualification criteria means some residential roads, which under the DfT’s guidelines could be reduced to 20mph, cannot because a small minority of drivers push up the average speed.

Alan Searing, committee chairman, said: "It is totally unrealistic to get all the interested parties together. This will be considered by the whole committee rather than by a topic group."

On March 21, Watford Borough Council unanimously agreed that "the mayor should request that Hertfordshire County Council should investigate the feasibility of implementing a 20 mph limit on all residential roads in Watford, excluding major routes, as appropriate."

The national speed limit on lit roads is 30mph, and but this can be reduced if there are, or could be, a significant number of journeys on foot or bike.

There are already many 20mph areas in towns and village centres, or near to schools, and in St Albans a wide-area trial has been undertaken, where more than 50 roads have been reduced to 20mph.

Tom Hawkyard, head of scrutiny, said: "There is a lot of interest in this and if we tried to do it quickly lots of people wouldn’t be able to attend."