Cameras' annual speeding windfall

SUFFOLK'S speed cameras are raking in around �2million a year - but transport chiefs insist the cash raised is not being used to finance road safety schemes.

SUFFOLK'S speed cameras are raking in around �2million a year - but transport chiefs insist the cash raised is not being used to finance road safety schemes.

Figures published today under Freedom of Information suggest that fixed-penalty tickets raised �1.752m in 2008-09, while the courts imposed fines of �487,000 in 2008.

While most areas of Britain have seen a marked fall in speeding offences as a result of increased fixed-point and mobile cameras, Suffolk has bucked the national trend.

The Suffolk Safe Cam partnership - a road safety partnership which includes Suffolk County Council, the Highways Agency, Suffolk police and the Crown Prosecution Service - has revealed speeding penalties rose from �1,457,700 in 2007-8 to �1,752,060 the following year, for which the courts handed out fines of �487,080 in 2008 from �402,184.

Based on fixed-penalty tickets costing drivers �60, there were 29,201 offenders in 2008-09, which works out at 80 a day. It is not possible to work out how many drivers were prosecuted, because fines can be many times the fixed-penalty charge.

In Essex, the number of penalty-notice fines decreased from �2,002,740 to �1,403,400 and in Norfolk from �1,238,820 to �895,320.

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Fines handed out by courts fell in Essex from �817,805 to �798,592 and in Norfolk from �443,260 to �441,915.

A Suffolk Safe Cam spokesman said: 'Between 2004-5 and 2007-8, the number of offences did drop year on year from 43,029 to 33,363. The rise during the following financial year is a direct result of concern in Suffolk over the increasing number of fatal and serious injury accidents at the start of 2008.

'It was decided to launch a major crackdown on the causes of these accidents - speeding, using mobile phones while driving, and drink-driving were targeted by Operation Nuclear, a joint venture with the county council and the police.'

Guy McGregor, transport portfolio-holder for the county council, denied speed cameras were a means by which money could be raised easily from motorists.

'In Suffolk, our cameras are put in place as a means to aid road safety,' said Mr McGregor. 'I am convinced that the fixed cameras at Coddenham and Haughley Bends saved lives. It is not just a question of stopping car accidents - all road users including pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders are safer as a result of fixed-point and hand-held cameras.'

'Like court fines, all the money is sent to Government - it is not ring-fenced and goes into the general taxation pot.

'Some money is repaid to pay for the cost of running the Safe Cam partnership, but we receive nothing specifically from the fines to pay for safety projects.

But Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: 'Motorists have long suspected that speed cameras are more about raising money than keeping the roads safe.

'These findings show that the state has been squeezing a fortune out of people using these cameras, but if anything the rate of reduction in casualty numbers has slowed.'