All county's speed cameras 'to go'

Every speed camera in an entire county looks set to disappear following Government funding cuts, it was disclosed yesterday.

Oxfordshire County Council is cutting its funding to the Thames Valley Safer Roads Partnership by 600,000 in a bid to meet 11m savings.

It has resulted in the partnership taking steps to cease all enforcement in the county and switch off its 72 fixed speed cameras, possibly as soon as August 1.

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The Government said it was delivering its pledge to "end the war on the motorist" by following through its promise to end central funding for fixed speed cameras.

But road safety campaigners fear other councils struggling to make ends meet could follow suit, resulting in lives being put at risk.

Every week three people are killed and more than 150 are injured on roads in the Thames Valley, according to statistics from the partnership.

Coun Keith Mitchell, leader of Conservative-led Oxfordshire County Council, said these were difficult choices but that the level of savings needed to be made were "unheard of".

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He said today: "This is a controversial area. Swindon, for example, cut its speed cameras last year and they have not noticed any change in accidents.

"This is just the very start, however. We are going to have to accept that over the next four years difficult decisions will continue to be made."

He added that the authority was not in a position to increase council tax bills and that other areas of council spending would be looked at. Councillors at a special meeting will vote tomorrow on whether to ratify the move to scrap the funding .

Ministers acknowledged that "difficult choices" must be made but they hoped councils would use available funds for other road safety measures.

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Road safety Minister Mike Penning said: "In the coalition agreement the Government made clear it would end central funding for fixed speed cameras.

"Local authorities have relied too heavily on safety cameras for far too long so I am pleased that some councils are now focusing on other measures to reduce road casualties.

"This is another example of this Government delivering on its pledge to end the war on the motorist.

"Although I recognise that the reduction of the road safety grant means that difficult choices must be made, I would hope that councils will use the funds available to put in place new measures to tackle road safety problems."

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Richard Owen, operations manager of Thames Valley Safer Roads Partnership, told The Sunday Times that the comprehensive spending review in the autumn could pave the way for further shutdowns.

But Ellen Booth, a campaigns officer for road safety group Brake, said: "It would be a disaster if these cuts were passed on in full by county councils to road safety partnerships.

"It would be especially hard to justify the idea that all speed cameras should be turned off. Speed cameras are a really cost effective way of managing speed, which is one of the biggest issues on our roads.

"To get rid of them would be a backward step and we would really be risking people's lives."

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Shadow home secretary Alan Johnson said removing cameras that had been shown to reduce road casualties was "a big, big mistake".

"Everyone who has analysed this has said that speed cameras have been an important part of the dramatic improvement on our roads," he told Sky News.

"The carnage on our roads every year... has gone down dramatically. It has gone down to below the levels, as I understand it, of the 1930s when there were far fewer cars on the road.

"It is a kind of a saloon bar view – 'these bloody speed cameras, get rid of them'.

"If they are connected to saving lives of not just adults but children as well, who are particularly vulnerable on our roads, then they are performing a useful function."