Anti-speed camera council leader had driving banSwindon Borough Council wants to scrap cameras

16 July 2008

The leader of a council which is considering scrapping speed cameras was once banned from driving for speeding, it's been revealed.

Swindon Borough Council is looking at proposals to get rid of cameras and find other ways to spend the £400,000 annual contribution it currently makes to the local safety camera partnership.

Roderick Bluh, the leader of the Conservative-controlled council, was banned for three months after he collected 12 penalty points on his licence for speeding.

Improve driving

Mr Bluh said the ban, which was imposed before he became Swindon council leader in 2006, had changed his behaviour but said there were other ways to improve people's driving.

'I was banned for three months. It has affected my behaviour,' he told Sky News.

'But all cameras do is catch you when you have speeded.'

Reject plan

Swindon South MP Anne Snelgrove, who is parliamentary private secretary to Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly, called on the council to reject the plan.

'It will be an invitation to boy racers from all over the country to come to Swindon and break the speed limit with no fear of a fine or points on their licence,' she warned.

'I'm urging the council to think again. They need to think about the safety of the children of Swindon on our roads.'

September decision

Mr Bluh said Conservative councillors moved a motion on the issue two months ago and a decision will be made by September.

Mr Bluh said: 'We are not going to compromise safety, but we are taking the opportunity to review how we utilise the money.

'A huge amount of money is being raised by speed cameras and we are seeking better ways of ensuring road safety without penalising motorists.'

Challenge

It is believed to be the first time a council in the UK has challenged the government over the issue.

Chief Inspector Ian Copus, head of the Wiltshire Police roads policing unit, said there was evidence that speed cameras had reduced accidents and saved lives.

Collision statistics for Wiltshire and Swindon for the 12 months ending in April showed a reduction of more than 30% in the number of people killed or seriously injured compared with pre-speed camera levels.

'For children under 16 years the reduction is 47.7%,' he said.

Reduction

At core sites in Swindon, in the three years before cameras were introduced in 2002, an average of 19 people were killed on the roads every year.

'Since safety camera enforcement began at these sites the average number of persons killed or seriously injured is 5.9 per year, a reduction of 69%,' he said.

Swindon raised the idea of withdrawing from the Wiltshire and Swindon Safety Camera Partnership after a shake-up of speed camera funding rules which means the Treasury now keeps the proceeds of fines.

The government then makes road-safety grants to councils.

Ministers argue this breaks the controversial link between cash and camera, which critics said gave authorities a financial incentive to fine more motorists.

Funding

A spokesman for the Department of Transport said the funding decision was a local matter for Swindon, but added: 'Safety cameras are there to save lives not to make money.

'The government is clear that the best safety camera is the one that takes no fines at all but succeeds in deterring drivers from speeding.'

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