Daily Mail: Highway robbers

Tuesday, 5 August, 2008

REVENUE from speeding tickets has almost quadrupled to £200 a minute since Labour came to power.

The increase has coincided with a massive expansion in the number of speed cameras.

Home Office figures reveal that 1.8million tickets are being issued each year, or 4,850 a day. In 1997, only 713,000 fixedpenalty notices were handed to drivers.

This is an increase of 150 per cent in only a decade, and it has been compounded by an increase in the value of fines - from £40 to £60 - in 2000. As a result, the total amount of cash raised has rocketed from £28.5million a decade ago to £106.4million in 2006, the period covered by the latest figures.

Tory police reform spokesman David Ruffley , who obtained the data, accused ministers of treating motorists like 'cash cows'.

Mr Ruffley said: 'The number of tickets issued for speeding has increased 150 per cent under Labour. Coupled with an increase in the basic speeding fine, this means speeding tickets are now raising over £100 million a year for the Government.

'Ministers need to tell us what they are doing with this £100million a year taken from motorists. How much is actually put back into practical road safety that does not involve speed cameras?

'Ministers' failure to answer that question confirms the view that for this Government the British motorist is "a nice little earner".

'Is Labour using speeding tickets just to raise revenue rather than making our roads safer?

'Using speed cameras as a cash cow undermines public confidence. The Government needs to rethink ways of improving road safety, including cracking down on uninsured drivers.'

The huge hike in the number of motorists being trapped is a direct result of an increase in the number of cameras. Britain is officially the speed camera capital of Europe.

There are 5,562 roadside speed cameras, compared with 1,935 as recently as 2000. Over the same period, mobile speed traps have increased from just 173 to 2,373.

Following a recent Government U-turn, speed- camera partnerships - comprising councils, police and the courts - no longer receive a penny from cameras.

Instead, the millions generated go directly into Treasury coffers. The Government then makes road safety grants to local councils.

The figures will stoke controversy at a time when Labour is seeking to clobber 13million motorists with up to £2billion in green vehicle excise duty (VED) taxes. The changes, which apply to more-polluting cars purchased since 2001, will increase some road tax bills from £210 to £430.

Matthew Elliott of the TaxPayers' Alliance said: 'It's appalling that motorists who already pay huge amounts in VED and petrol tax are being stung yet again by the aggressive growth of the speed camera industry.

'The law is discredited and devalued when politicians use it more as a way of making money rather than fighting crime.'

Over the ten-year period since Labour won power, there were increases in the number of speeding fines in 40 out of the 43 police forces in England and Wales.

In Nottinghamshire, there has been a nine-fold increase, from 4,625 fines in 1997 to 42,916 fines in

2006. In Warwickshire, the number has increased 16-fold, from 1,857 fines in 1997 to 30,316 in 2006.

Mr Ruffley's probing of the first ten years of Labour rule also shows the number of fines for speeding imposed by magistrates increased by 16 per cent - from 130,605 in 1997 to 152,461 in 2006. These fines are up to £1,000 each, raising millions more in revenue.

But separate figures seen by the Daily Mail show there were fewer prosecutions last year in two of the main categories which worry the public.

Dangerous driving cases fell by 1,100 to 7,400 and prosecutions for driving while drunk or on drugs were down from 103,500 to 101,400.

Despite the huge increase in speeding fines, Britain's record for reducing accidents is much worse than other countries.

The European Transport Safety Council says that between 2001 and 2005 there was a mere seven per cent reduction in the number of road deaths in Britain compared with a 25 per cent drop in Sweden and the Netherlands and 35 per cent in France.

Experts warn that too much emphasis is now placed on using cameras to trap motorists. at the expense of old-fashioned policing by officers in cars.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: 'Safety cameras are there to save lives, not make money. Independent research shows there are 1,745 fewer deaths and serious injuries at camera sites each year.'

He added that some of the revenue came from police-issued tickets, not cameras.