Speeding fines 'a stealth tax'

OVER £520,000 of fines from speeding motorists in Essex have been poured into Government coffers and spent on doctors, nurses and teachers instead of road safety improvements, it was revealed last night.

By Juliette Maxam

OVER £520,000 of fines from speeding motorists in Essex have been poured into Government coffers and spent on doctors, nurses and teachers instead of road safety improvements, it was revealed last night.

Police cameras used to catch speeding motorists and drivers skipping red lights have raised over £520,000 more than the £3 million needed for their operation and administration.

The Treasury refunds the Essex Safety Camera Partnership the costs of running the cameras, which in 2001/2 - the most recent figures - was £3,003,763.


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But that year Essex cameras raised fines totalling £3,524,120.

Kelly Fairweather, safety camera liaison officer at the Essex Safety Camera Partnership, said the additional £520,357 was kept by the Treasury.

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Last night a Treasury spokesman said the extra money goes into the general pot and is spent on doctors, nurses and teachers.

West Chelmsford MP Simon Burns received the figures after he tabled two Parliamentary Questions.

Yesterday he said: "Many people have suspected that the extensive and increasing use of speed cameras was not so much for road safety reasons but instead to raise money in yet another stealth tax.

"The answers to my Parliamentary questions seem to confirm this."

He is going to ask another Parliamentary Question to find out exactly where the extra money raised goes.

He said if the money was used for general spending it would be "absolutely disgraceful" and "confirm the impression that speed cameras are being used for money raising purposes rather than for improving road safety".

Ms Fairweather said current laws prevent the Essex Safety Camera Partnership from receiving any money from fines revenue other than its running costs.

The county's mobile safety cameras are operated by Essex Police officers on their days off. They claim overtime for manning the mobile cameras.

It is reported that last year a pool of 100 officers earned £510,000 between them in operating the cameras which are in use somewhere in the county every day of the year.

Rosemary Welch, from the Essex Safety Camera Partnership, said using police officers on their days off is considered the most cost effective way of operating the cameras, as it saves on training costs and also ensures police resources are not drained in order to run the system.

Colchester Borough Council Labour Group leader Tim Young said: "I think it's fair enough any extra revenue goes into the national pot. It makes a contribution towards road safety and any additional money is for the elected government of the day to do with as they wish.

"I would say every government before and after them would do the same."

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