Speed cameras could be axed in Norfolk

THE future of speed cameras in Norfolk is under review, with council bosses considering whether they will have to scrap or reduce them in the face of savage government cuts.

Norfolk County Council and Norfolk police are in talks over the future of the Norfolk Safety Camera Partnership, which is responsible for the 23 fixed cameras in the county.

The government has withdrawn a �440,000 road safety revenue grant, which the county council used to fund the Safety Camera Partnership, leaving a massive question mark over the future of the cameras.

Oxfordshire County Council is this week set to become the first local authority in the country to switch off the cameras because of cash cuts - and safety campaigners fear others will follow suit.

While a decision in Norfolk has yet to be made, speed camera bosses said “downsizing” was inevitable, while county council chiefs admitted they would have to consider whether doing away with cameras altogether was the answer.

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It remained unclear last night what the position was in Suffolk.

Adrian Gunson, Norfolk cabinet member for travel and transport, said: “We haven’t made a decision as yet, but the amount of money spent on road safety will have to be cut.

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“There are a variety of options, whether it is keeping the existing cameras, reducing them or having none at all.

“I am not personally in favour of having more, but the question really is whether we should have fewer and if so, how much enforcement there would be by the police.”

He said recommendations on the way forward would be presented to the county council’s cabinet in August or September.

Ian Boggan, manager of Norfolk Safety Camera Partnership, said the issue was not just about fixed cameras, but about other preventative work the money paid for.

He said: “Basically, as everybody is aware, central government have withdrawn and reduced funding to local authorities for road safety projects and that has naturally had a knock-on effect as to how local authorities fund safety camera partnerships. The council has come to us with the situation we have to manage.

“In Norfolk the camera partnership runs a range of services, not just the fixed cameras, but also mobile cameras, speed awareness messaging, community speed watch and the Community Concerns initiative, which is the safety camera partnership working with local safer neighbourhood teams to deal with requests from community action groups.

“There is no doubt we need to take early action on behalf of our key partners, the police and the county council, to deal with the funding situation so we are looking across the wide range of services we provide.

“At present it is very likely we will be downsizing at some point in the future, we have not made a decision on what form that will take yet and the objective is to preserve the range of services we have got as best we can.

“There are no immediate plans to start removing camera housings. There are really difficult times ahead, but it is important to remember the reason why the cameras are there, which is to reduce casualties. Norfolk has reduced casualties by approx. a third in the past five years and we are keen to continue with that good work”.

Road safety charities share the concern the cuts will undo good work to cut casualties.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive of road safety charity Brake, said: “We are horrified that vital road safety work is grinding to a halt as a result of draconian funding cuts made by the government.

“Turning cameras off, and pulling the plug on other important road safety work, is a disastrous blow for those communities relying on cameras to protect them, and an insult to those crying out for measures to cut speeds in their neighbourhoods and those families so traumatically bereaved by speed.”

Earlier this month it emerged the county’s speed cameras were generating nearly �350,000 a year less than previously.

The reduction in the number of fixed-penalty tickets was hailed as a positive sign, suggesting drivers are increasingly aware of cameras and are driving at appropriate speeds.

Newly published figures show that fixed-penalty tickets issued in Norfolk raised �895,320 in 2008-09, compared with �1.238m in the previous year.

Adrian Tink, from the RAC, said the organisation had a lot of sympathy with the situation Norfolk and other councils were in.

But he added: “What we have always wanted at the RAC is an audit of the existing cameras.

“We want to know what effect they have on safety and whether they are in the right place for the right reasons.

“We would be concerned if they got rid of them completely because there are accident blackspots in Norfolk and, with the cuts police are facing, it is unclear whether there would be other enforcement.”

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