Police forces are now receiving some of the income from each fine and are supposed to be ploughing this back into road safety, though most just seem to be wasting the money or spending it on more cameras. Last year we had 8 quangos administering the speed cameras and now we have 42 of them, now renamed Safety Camera Partnerships. These are normally run by a board of people including local councilors (renown for administrative efficiency!), the police and magistrates. This “partnership” then buys in the services of the police and council staff that are required to run the camera’s and often use external third party companies to do the project management of new installations. The system is quite complicated and money vanishes into numerous pots and conveniently these “partnerships” do not need to publish their accounts to really reveal what’s going on. In November 2003 the Sunday Times did manage to get hold of the accounts of the Essex Partnership and below is a summary of how they spent the £6.2 million that they earned in 2002. At the time they had just 51 cameras

£222,000 paid to the magistrate’s court to send out paperwork
£2,240,000 paid to Essex county council for admin
£16,730 was spent on advertising!!
£2,440,000 went to Essex Police who spent it on;
£50,198 on stationary
£24,150 on photocopy paper!
£82,876 on travel and eating out/subsistence !!
£8,279 on mobile phones
£4,667 for interior decoration !!
£4,244 on hospitality !! perhaps they are taking speeders out for dinner?
And most of the remainder went on salary and overtime costs.

With 52 cameras and a cost of £6.2 million – each camera costs you and I, £121,000 per year to operate. The average salary for a police officer including allowances and overtime is £33,384 per year, so the spend on each speed camera is equivalent to 3.6 full time police officers – which do you think would make the roads safer?

Not everyone in the police force is obsessed with cameras and a few senior officers are beginning to speak out. The Chief Constable of Durham, Paul Garvin is one of them. He says “The main cause of collisions is driver error caused by lapses in concentration due to tiredness, reading whilst driving and talking on mobile phones”. He went onto say that just 3% of accidents in the Durham area were related to excess speed. Durham has no fixed speed cameras and yet has an accident rate 30% lower than the national average. Paul Garvin is actively campaigning for improved driver training rather than just the installation of a swarm of cameras. All UK road users should applaud him for his approach.

Whilst we all know that cameras are meant to be installed in accident black spots, we all know that this is just not true. The European Road Assessment Programme (another huge quango) have characterised all of the UK’s roads by the frequency of serious accidents. The ten most dangerous roads in the UK have only 4 cameras between them!

Whilst we are aware that we now have thousands of speed cameras the government seem reluctant to reveal how many of us are being issued with tickets. In 1995, 690,000 tickets were issued and in 2001 it was 1.4 million. The government have yet to release figures for 2002 as they have not been audited yet, but it could easily be heading for 3 million and is almost certain to exceed 4 million by 2006.

So with these thousands of cameras and hundreds of millions of our money spent, how many lives have been saved? The Government claim a 35% reduction in casualties. If you factor in that cars are much safer with anti lock brakes, air bags and that the average speed of traffic is dropping (due to congestion) then we should see a huge drop in fatalities?

Unfortunately for the dead, their families and the rest of us, since 2000 (when cameras started appearing in quantity) the death toll has increased. No doubt the government will spin its own figures to try and prove the opposite, but the bare figures show otherwise.

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