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Updated: West Country faces complete fixed speed camera switch off

News accompanies job losses at local Safety Camera Partnership

The Safecam Partnership which manages the speed camera network across the Avon & Somerset police area has announced that the fixed camera network in Somerset and North Somerset council areas will be switched of following a reduction in government funding. As well as the camera switch off the local Safety Camera Partnership’s management team is to be axed, with Avon & Somerset Police assuming responsibility for managing mobile speed cameras.

Laurie Lewis, chair of the partnership, told the BBC that the police would continue to use mobile units in certain places, following news that three management positions were to be scrapped in Taunton and that an office in Bristol that processes fines would have jobs there cut from 44 to 30 as a result of a report carried out by the consultancy firm, Deloitte.

"If it's a smaller operation it would be naive to suggest that people are all going to keep their jobs," Mr Lewis told BBC News. "In Avon and Somerset we're looking at a reduction in numbers and how, where possible, we can redeploy staff."

Mr Lewis added: "In relation to Somerset, they've already made the decision to withdraw from fixed cameras. In terms of the West of England [formerly the county of Avon], they have yet to formally make up their minds which way they want to go."

A recent Which? survey reported here on found that less than half of the 3,000 speed cameras in England & Wales are actually being used, although Avon & Somerset had one of the highest utilisation rates at 94%.

The BBC says that while cameras in Somerset cost £60,000 annually to operate, many need to be upgraded, which would cost £405,000, and Mr Lewis maintained that using mobile cameras would be "more intelligent".

A Somerset County Council spokesman told the BBC that efforts undertaken alongside the Safety Camera Partnership to devise a new funding model that would have allowed the speed cameras to remain on.

"Avon and Somerset Police withdrew from this option and instead asked the council to take on responsibility for maintenance of the fixed cameras which we declined due to the future cost implications," he commented.

"We are deeply disappointed at the police decision. It remains our view that a self-funding operation is a workable alternative to switching off fixed cameras," he added.

The Safecam Partnership comprises two road safety partnerships: The West of England Road Safety Partnership covers the council areas of Bristol, Bath & North East Somerset and North Somerset and South Gloucestershire, while the Somerset Road Safety Partnership covers the Somerset County Council area.

At present Somerset and North Somerset have cut their funding for speed cameras while South Gloucestershire has indicated that it is likely to cut its funding too. Bristol and Bath & North East Somerset have as yet made no indication about their intentions regarding speed camera funding - although a report on last night's regional BBC News programme, Points West inferred after talking to the councils that if the rest of the members of the partnership were no longer funding fixed speed cameras it was unlikely that the remaining to authorities would either. 

News of the loss of the Somerset's fixed speed cameras has been greeted with dismay by many residents of the county with one woman, Pat Ireland, setting up a charity to help pay for the upkeep of the speed camera in the village of Rooksbridge where she lives. Mrs Ireland's husband Gordon was killed by a speeding motorist on the A38 in January 2008.

Should the speed cameras in Oxfordshire remain switched off there is a very real possibility that there will be no fixed speed cameras heading west between Berkshire and Devon and the Devon & Cornwall Speed Camera Partnership is also having its funding cut while a recent survey of speed cameras by Which? found that only 12 per cent of speed cameras in the Thames Valley area actually worked. Which would mean that speeding drivers would have little fear of encountering a speed camera anywhere west of London.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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