Local councils are to be given more powers to introduce 20 mph zones in towns and also to reduce rural speed limits from 60 mph to as low as 40 mph.
Road Safety Minister Mike Penning said: "It is vital that speed limits are suitable for local conditions and councils are best placed to determine what these limits are, based on local knowledge and the views of the community.
"To help, we are publishing updated guidance for consultation. This includes a number of initiatives we have introduced to improve road safety, including making it easier for local authorities and communities to put in place 20 mph schemes, or use common-sense measures such as variable speed limits outside schools.
"Road safety is a top priority and the guidance - along with the speed limit appraisal web tool - will help councils make evidence based decisions to introduce local speed limits that reflect the needs of all road users."
While sensibly targeted 20 mph zones in urban areas are unlikely to cause controversy (although some proposals do seem to defy common sense), the idea of a 40 mph limit on some rural roads is likely to ignite some fierce arguments. Rural roads with houses on them are already subject to lower limits than the national 60 mph restriction, so which roads will get the lower speed limit?
There certainly are rural roads where 60 mph is too fast, but there are sections of country roads where 40 mph is too much, so the question is where does it stop? Does every little stretch of road get its own speed limit, with motorists spending more time looking for speed limit signs than examining the condition of the road?