As part of the extension of the scheme, he is instructing local authority and police partnerships wishing to join the scheme to make safety cameras more visible to motorists with much tighter rules before cameras can be approved. He also announced that four new police force areas were to join the netting off scheme of re-investing fine revenue into more cameras.
The instructions to local authorities joining the scheme will mean that cameras will in future have to be signed and highly visible to motorists. The rules for joining the scheme will force partnerships to prioritise camera sites and have quantified evidence that those sites have the greatest casualty problems. The rules will also make clear that cameras cannot be located for political or revenue-generating purposes and that speed surveys have to be conducted in advance of situating cameras to ensure they are only placed in areas there is a proven problem. Failure to meet these rules will lead to partnerships losing their right to reinvest fine revenue.
New rules will also require fixed cameras to be well-signed and highly visible with their location published in local papers, local radio and on websites. Home secretary David Blunkett will continue to work with transport secretary Stephen Byers and Mr Spellar to look at further ways of improving visibility and developing public confidence in the system.
Mr Spellar said:
'Safety cameras are playing a significant role in preventing accidents and loss of life. They are there to change driver behaviour, not to catch motorists and raise revenue. I hope that by instructing local authorities to make them more visible, motorists will realise that road safety is our main concern. If they heed the signs and slow down when they see cameras they, their passengers and pedestrians will be safer and they won't get a ticket. These instructions emphasise the government's commitment to using safety cameras as a deterrent against excessive speeding, and not as a means of raising money.'
Mr Spellar also welcomed the publication of a report on the first year of the pilot scheme where partnerships comprising local traffic authorities, the police and magistrates courts were allowed to re-invest fixed penalty fine revenue into the siting of more cameras at accident sites and to make better use of existing enforcement camera equipment and resources.
The report shows that on average at the camera sites in the pilots the number of people killed or seriously injured fell by 47%, compared to the average over the previous three years. Across the eight areas as a whole the number of people killed or seriously injured dropped by 18%. On average the number of drivers speeding at camera sites dropped from 55% to 16%.
Mr Spellar said:
'These figures are highly encouraging. We are committed to reducing death and injury on the roads, and these results prove that safety cameras play a major role in reducing speeding and improving safety. Too many people die each year on our roads and I am glad that the pilots have been so successful in reducing the number of deaths and serious injuries. The pilot areas are showing a reduction in fatal and serious injuries that is twice the national trend.
'The scheme only allows netted-off fine revenue to be used to cover the costs of safety camera enforcement activity and, as these results show, this has proved highly successful.'
Mr Spellar went on to announce that the netting-off scheme will now be rolled out nationally and four new partnerships areas have been approved to start later this year:
'I am delighted to be able to announce today that Derbyshire, Lancashire, North Wales and Staffordshire have been approved to start operating their own netting-off partnerships. Clearly, these areas have seen the benefits of the 'netting off' pilots and hope to replicate the successes in their own areas. I have no doubt that there will be real benefits in these areas too, and I wish them every success.
'Police forces round the country are now able to form a partnership with the local traffic authorities and magistrates courts and apply to join the scheme under the conditions I have outlined. I believe that many will want to do so and hope that the advantages of being able to operate safety cameras more effectively will encourage more forces to form partnerships and join the scheme. However, we are clear that the aim is to stop accidents not catch motorists and to ensure that safety cameras must be clearly visible.'
The Road Traffic Act 1991 amended the law so that courts could accept evidence of speeding from type approved photographic equipment accompanied only by a certificate signed on behalf of the relevant police force. All equipment used in camera schemes must be first type approved by the home office.
The Vehicle (Crimes) Act 2001 allows for the scheme piloted in the eight areas to be replicated nationally where partnerships have submitted a suitable operational case.
The department recommends that cameras should be located at the sites which have the worst record for accidents caused by speeding and that, before deploying them, safety checks should be made to identify any other measures which should be carried out first (eg improving road layout, anti-skid surfacing, improved visibility, etc). Cameras are proving to be successful at reducing traffic speeds and accidents at high risk sites. A home office commissioned analysis of camera sites in 10 police force areas has shown a reduction in accidents of 28% and speeds reduced by an average of 4.2 mph persite.
There is a long standing principle that the revenue from court fines and fixed penalties goes directly to the Consolidated Fund of the exchequer. However, cameras are a purely road safety measure. Neither the local traffic authorities, who place the cameras, nor the police, who operate them, can at present claim any of the fine revenue: and the fact that all fine revenue goes to the Consolidated Fund makes it difficult for them to afford to operate cameras effectively.
Following a treasury announcement on 9 December 1998 that they accepted the principle that, providing they meet strict criteria, the costs of some enforcement activities may be met from the money raised from fines, levies and fees, Ministers tasked officials with finding a new funding mechanism which will allow those who place and operate the cameras, as well as the courts who must process the prosecutions, to retain some of the fine revenue in order to be able to make fuller use of cameras. A new system has been developed by consultants (PA Consulting) following preparatory work by then DETR, Home Office, Lord Chancellor's Department and the Crown Prosecution Service, and with the support of the police, local authorities and Highways Agency.
The eight pilots started on 1 April 2000 which tested the new mechanism to ensure it meets the Treasury requirements. These are that they should:
be designed primarily to reduce road casualties, (although may deliver other benefits as well); provide for additional effort to the levels planned for the year 2000/01. Additional effort may be in the form of greater use of existing cameras, if justified, usually because there are constraints in processing fixed penalties; more cameras in order to enforce more often at existing camera housing sites; or more sites;
demonstrate adequate explanation to the public locally of the scheme's purpose well before it starts;
only cover allowable expenditure (eg, for cameras, housings, supporting equipment, facilities, staff and office processing equipment);
be self financing, with plans over time to reduce unit costs as efficiency gains are made from economies of scale. It is not intended that the whole of the fine income should be exhausted by the costs of collection. Any start up costs must be found locally;
be ring fenced, with no income from this source to be used other than for the costs of running the scheme. And there will be no specific pump priming capital funding from government.
The minister's new announcement allows the scheme to go ahead around the country. Cameras must only be sited where they will have a real effect on accidents and must be clearly visible. Further work on ensuring that cameras are visible and that there are clear, effective rules that work will be done by home secretary David Blunkett and transport ministers.
The eight pilot partnership areas are being carefully monitored and the results of their first year of operation from April 2000 to March 2001 have been prepared for DTLR by PA Consulting Group. These are summarised in a published document available on the DTLR website.
* see LGCnetfor details of the police forces taking part.