Adopt-a-speed camera idea for communities

COMMUNITIES could be offered the chance to adopt a speed camera if funding cuts threaten to make current safety measures extinct, it has emerged.

Speed enforcement bosses in Suffolk are weighing up their options after having their budget slashed by a crippling 40pc this year.

And with no guarantee of funding beyond next April, they may be forced to look for sources of income from all corners of society.

One idea mooted is to follow in the footsteps of an Oxfordshire parish council which aims to raise thousands of pounds to safeguard its speed camera after they were scrapped countywide last month.

The cost of installing a fixed camera is thought to be in the region of �45,000.

However, a more likely scenario could involve villages buying in the cost of running a mobile camera on a intermittent basis - said to be around �100 an hour.

Terry Marsh, manager of Suffolk SafeCam, a partnership which operates the county's speed cameras, said an attitude of 'reverse nimbyism' could make the scheme a success.

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'People want speeds kept under control outside their homes,' he said.

'Where communities are having an issue with speeding, they could hire a mobile camera, for example, to spend how ever many hours a week or month there.

'It has been mentioned in the past - half a dozen parishes have approached us - but we have resisted it. However, these are different times.

'It is going to get to the point where we have to consider every way to reduce costs and increase income. 'These are things which could be explored. I haven't given it enough consideration to come up with a workable idea, but it would be nice to start the debate.'

Mr Marsh said he had reservations about the scheme as it could lead to a two-tier system.

'It may be that better-off areas can afford it, while poorer areas get nothing,' he said. 'You may have to charge a supplement to the rich, so it works in other areas.'

As in other parts of the country, Suffolk SafeCam, which employs 28 staff, has had its government funding reduced by �565,000 - around 40pc.

This includes all of its maintenance grant, which means it cannot repair any hardware until next April.

Bosses are also bracing themselves for the Coalition Government's October spending review, which may result in all funding for safety camera partnerships being axed.

'If a camera breaks down, we have no money to fix it,' said Mr Marsh. 'We can't renew anything unless someone, somewhere, finds some money. 'We have arrangements with neighbouring groups nationally for mutual assistance in instances like that. But it is not a long-term solution.

'The partnership (Suffolk SafeCam) has to find ways to fill the void. That is the subject of discussions at the moment. That is the situation that has been placed upon us.

'Given the ever-increasing demand for speed enforcement across the county, it is a very difficult position to be in.'

Since the introduction of Suffolk SafeCam in 2003, Mr Marsh says the number of fatal or serious-injury (KSI) crashes across its eight fixed and 28 mobile sites have reduced by 80pc. A third of these sites had have no KSI accidents since 2003.

He believes the number of deaths will rise as the cash dries up.

'I think it is inevitable,' he said. 'Cameras work.'