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David Sammels: Localism applies to speed cameras too


David Sammels, a Councillor for St Philips' ward in Swindon, explains why he and his colleagues have threaten to pull out of their Safety Camera Partnership.

Swindon Borough Council has recently caused waves by threatening to withdraw from our local Safety Camera Partnership unless the Government allows us to share in or take fully the revenue generated from speed camera fines.

Unusually for a British tax or fine, when speed cameras were first being touted in the early years of Blair’s administration there was a promise that the money generated would be hypothecated straight back into more road safety measures; probably a concession to mitigate the unpopularity of the idea.

However, when the Department for Transport introduced Safety Camera Partnerships this link was not maintained, with approximately 15% of the revenues in the average partnership being retained by the partnership for additional road safety measures, with the rest of the money often going straight into the Government’s coffers.

In Swindon, like many other authorities, the Borough Council must pay for the cameras and the operation of the Partnership, but the revenues generated by the fines go to the Government. We feel that this is grossly unfair, but then again, this is on form for Labour.

Local Councillors throughout the country are sadly now used to a state of affairs where the Government announces a new programme, and funding to go hand in hand with it. The catch? The funding normally tapers away over a handful of years and the local authority is left holding the financial and political responsibility – often for the most unpopular of schemes.

Like so many other Labour Party initiatives, this serves to transform further  “local government” into “local management.”  This is an ugly aspect of the last ten years that we must challenge.   

The Labour Party in Swindon has criticised us for wanting to reduce the number of road safety measures / speed cameras. This is simply not the case; we wish to continue working with the police and other stakeholder organisations in order to place road safety measures in the spots where they will save lives. 

However, these kind of decisions need to be taken at a local level; it’s this kind of localism which the Conservative Party needs to continue to champion.  Not only do local people know where the black spots and trouble areas are; they are also likely to take the decisions with safety, rather than revenue, as the priority.  Labour talk a good game when it comes to the localism agenda, but as usual they fail to deliver.

Whether or not the Government accedes to our request will be a strong indicator of whether they do regard the Partnerships as useful instruments of local governance or as a tax raising measure. If the message is that it is the latter, then they will need to fund the scheme themselves.   

If they choose to release the funds raised then we will be able to move forward with a Road Safety Partnership that is fully fit for purpose.


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