Councillor wants speed camera shakeup

A TRANSPORT supremo in Essex wants more covert police operations and greater powers for the quango in charge of running the county's growing number of speed cameras.

A TRANSPORT supremo in Essex wants more covert police operations and greater powers for the quango in charge of running the county's growing number of speed cameras.

Rodney Bass, an Essex County councillor, has sparked controversy by saying police were failing to trap speeding motorists because laws required them to “dress up to the nineses”.

Instead, officers should be allowed to step up “clandestine” operations and do away with warnings of looming traps, he said.

Mr Bass was cabinet member for highways and transportation at Essex County Council before the administration was dissolved for Thursday's local elections.

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He is expected to be re-appointed to the position at a full meeting of the council to be held on May 17.

Mr Bass said despite a Whitehall straightjacket, the Essex Safety Camera Partnership - a joint operation between Essex Police, the Highways Agency and the county council - was doing a “marvellous” job, although it needed beefing up.

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His controversial comments come as it emerged the partnership wants 10 new speed camera sites approved by both the council and the Government - despite evidence suggesting motorists are already slowing down.

Latest unaudited figures reveal the partnership raised £4.7million from 78,505 paid fixed penalty tickets issued for speeding and red-light jumping in 2004/5 - a 25% fall since 2001.

The bulk was used to pay the running costs for the 118-camera network, including police officer overtime, with the surplus returned to Treasury coffers.

The partnership recently came in for strong criticism after an EADT investigation revealed none of the accidents used to win Government approval for a mobile camera on the A12 at Kelvedon was caused by excessive speed.

The EADT also revealed that when he arrives later this year one of the first tasks for the new chief constable of Essex Police, Roger Baker, will be to conduct a wholesale review of the use of speed cameras.

But Mr Bass said although he was happy with the Essex partnership, there needed to be some changes.

He said: “All the money raised should be kept by the partnership and used by the county council to improve transport safety measures in Essex.

“I want mobile cameras to be used in a more clandestine way. They are too open at the moment.

“Drivers know they are there because police have to dress up to the nineses and they give the game away.

“If we want to catch more offenders, we need greater freedom to operate, but what I also want is more flexibility in the penalty structures.

“The £60 fine and three points is too rigid - the penalties should reflect the gravity of the offences.”

But Paul Smith, founder of the Safe Speed road safety campaign, said: “After more than a decade of speed camera policy failure, it beggars belief that a councillor should be asking for more.

“There are now so many vested interests with camera manufacturers, installers, bureaucrats and others involved that it is very difficult for them to get hold of the full and correct information - road deaths are not falling.”

Kelly Fairweather, spokeswoman for the Essex Safety Camera Partnership, said: “We are hoping that although the number of cameras is increasing, the number of people detected will continue to go down.

“The cameras are not there to make money. We put up signs to act as a deterrent to motorists.”

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