County's bid to reclaim speeding fines

SUFFOLK looks set to launch an ambitious bid to become the first county in the country to reclaim all of the income raised by speed camera fines to reinvest into road safety.

By Danielle Nuttall

SUFFOLK looks set to launch an ambitious bid to become the first county in the country to reclaim all of the income raised by speed camera fines to reinvest into road safety.

The county council's executive committee is considering making a request to the Government to return future surplus funds generated by the Suffolk Safety Camera Partnership, which manages the county's speed cameras.

The news comes days after it was revealed 48,000 drivers were caught speeding in Suffolk in the past 12 months – generating nearly £3million in speeding fines.

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Presently, the revenue received from speeding tickets is used only to cover operational costs including new cameras, with the remainder returning to the Government.

The partnership is on course to raise surplus income this year but it is not known whether the Government would permit such funds to be re-invested into road improvement schemes in the county.

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Peter Monk, Suffolk County Council's portfolio holder for public protection, said last night he hoped it would be able to recover 100% of the fund.

But motoring group the AA voiced serious concerns about the move, saying it could leave local authorities dependent on catching speeding motorists to pay for road safety initiatives.

Mr Monk said: "If you don't ask you don't get and I think we have a good case. We feel that money should be ploughed back into safety schemes and initiatives. Safety improvements can lead to improvements in stretches of road.

"But I wouldn't want us to get into a position where we get the money through that and they slice it from another part of our budget. This is extra."

Mr Monk also insisted speed cameras were not an "income generator", adding: "I would rather have no income from our cameras as difficult as it might be because then everybody would be law abiding and we would have a massive reduction in accidents."

A spokeswoman for the Treasury said no council in the country had ever received surplus funding from speeding fines apart from that which covered operational costs.

She added: "The cost of the speed camera programme is met through the funding and any excess goes back to Government's consolidated funds.

"The funds will be used towards all sorts of public services which would include road crime, education and health, which are the Government's priorities."

Andrew Howard, head of road safety for the AA, said: "Our concerns really have to be firstly the local authority's road safety activity becoming dependent on them catching people speeding and secondly how it affects the local government finance system.

"If the speed cameras work, they will get less money, and that will have implications for the whole of local Government finance.

"The concern is that if school crossing patrols start being paid out of speed camera revenue what happens if speed camera revenue drops?

"We are really concerned about maintaining state funding for road safety and are not particularly very happy relying on the county to catch lots of people speeding."

Last week, Suffolk SafeCam reported the annual rate of casualties killed or seriously injured at sites where speed cameras have been introduced had fallen from 129 in 2003 to 25 in 2004.

Terry Marsh, project manager of Suffolk SafeCam, said the matter of extra finance was for the politicians to discuss and not for an enforcement agency.

The issue is set to be discussed by members of the county council's executive committee on February 3.

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