It says it has seen confidential documents revealing that Avon and Somerset intends to catch 150,000 speeding motorists next year, bringing in £6m. Even this is said to be a conservative estimate based on just two-thirds of motorists paying their £60 fines.
The newspaper says the documents are the 'first black-and-white evidence' of what increasing numbers of motorists suspect - that speed cameras are not being used to reduce accidents but to generate cash. They also highlight how the cameras launched three years ago has mushroomed into an industry employing consultancy firms, highway engineers, police, civilian support staff and council officers. The government also benefits by about £40m a year because any fines over and above operational costs are retained by the Treasury.
The internal briefing paper obtained by the newspaper sets out next year's cash flow model for the Avon, Somerset and Gloucestershire Safety Partnership, which includes police forces and local authorities.
As the number of cameras has grown, so has outside involvement, and several private companies now take a leading role in installing and maintaining cameras. Exact figures are said to be almost impossible to obtain as all parties involved refuse to discuss contracts. So far, only Essex has allowed any details to become public.
The county issued 94,000 tickets last year, bringing in £6,2m, of which it handed a £521,000 surplus to the Treasury. Essex CC received £2.2m, most of which went on cameras, though £16,730 was spent on advertising and publicity and £70,392 on salaries, according to unpublished accounts. A consultancy, Atkins Highways and Transportation, earned £237,126 in management fees for arranging contracts. No one there was available to explain what exactly it had done to justify the fees.
Essex Police received £3.1m - half the money collected. It can only be spent on accident reduction schemes, but it does free up police resources meaning that the more income a force receives from fines, the more resources it has for other work.
County Durham is one of the few areas not covered by roadside cameras. Its chief constable, Paul Garvin, said he believed there was nowhere in his area where a fixed camera would help save lives or prevent serious injury. Without such cameras, Durham still claims an accident rate 30% below the national average. Mr Garvin said the cause of a collision was invariably bad driving behaviour ratherthan sheer speed.