The great switch off: Thousands of speed cameras set to be scrapped as councils follow Oxfordshire's lead
Britain’s network of 6,000 speed cameras could be dramatically reduced after a raft of councils looked set to follow Oxfordshire’s move and switch theirs off.
The county’s entire network of 72 cameras will be switched off at midnight tonight after the coalition Government pulled the plug on their funding.
The change of heart could usher in a different landscape for Britain’s 33million motorists two decades after the first network was installed.
Already, neighbouring Buckinghamshire said it is ‘very likely’ to switch off its cameras, while Bedfordshire, Suffolk and Derbyshire have launched reviews.
Northamptonshire has also switched off eight of their 42 cameras and Somerset is to axe nine of its 26 traps in coming weeks.
Other local authorities have announced there will be no new cameras, despite praising them in the past for helping to reduce road deaths to a record low.
The moves, however, could be just the tip of the iceberg as councils battle to deal with huge reductions in central government funding while expecting further cuts.
Under the terms of the new budget, the road safety grant for 2010-11 has been slashed by 40 per cent.
Crucially, the capital grant - a £17.2million annual fund that typically pays for the cameras - has also been abolished.
With few other way of funding the cameras - as the fines from speeding go to the Treasury - councils would have to pay using revenue earmarked for schools and other projects.
In the case of Oxfordshire, the county council axed its £600,000 grant to the Thames Valley Safer Roads Partnership in a bid to find £1million in savings.
While some residents have voiced concern that the move will turn the county’s roads into a ‘racetrack’, many more have welcomed the decision.
Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson, who lives in the county, told the Sunday Times: ‘It will make no difference to the speed that anyone travels.’
Thames Valley Police pointed out that officers will still be on the look-out for speeders.
Traffic police in the county issued 3,396 tickets for the offence in the year ending June 30.
The first camera network was installed in 1992, although their initial take-up was slow with only 30 in place two years after their launch.
It was not until 1999 that the boom really got under way after Labour created safety camera partnerships that allied police forces with local authorities to operate the traps.
In 2000, the numbers of speed cameras exploded to 4,500.
But as time went by they increasingly generated hostility with opponents labelling them ‘greed cameras’ employed as a stealth tax on motorists.
Labour moved to dispel public anger by announcing in 2007 that revenue would no longer go directly to councils but to the Treasury.
So, in providing a road safety grant instead, the last government was unwittingly complicit in the speed camera’s downfall.
Gloucestershire county council, now facing massive budget cuts, made this point apparent in a recent statement.
A spokesman said: ‘The Government has cut the funding to operate the speed camera network - and remember, the Government keeps the revenue from the fines - therefore, we are cancelling all plans for expanding the speed camera network and upgrading existing cameras.’ Daily Fail