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
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
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
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.