A brake on the rise in speed cameras?

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The Government signalled a change today in the way the controversial speed camera partnership scheme is funded

From 2007, cameras will no longer be funded from the fines raised from those caught by the devices, Transport Secretary Alistair Darling said.

There will also be new requirements to improve the signposting of cameras and a requirement for all local authorities to review the speed limits on their A and B roads by 2011.

From 2007/08, camera schemes will be integrated into wider local authority road safety activity.

Instead of the money raised from fines going towards funding the cameras, English local authorities will get an additional £110 million a year for the four years from 2007/08.

This exceeds the £93 million a year currently spent by the local authority-police-Government camera partnerships.

Mr Darling made his announcement as he published an independent four-year report that showed that cameras continue to have an important part to play, with around 1,745 fewer people killed or seriously injured each year.

Mr Darling said: "This report is clear proof that safety cameras save lives. There are hundreds of people alive today who would otherwise be dead.

"All the academics involved in this independent report agree that cameras are delivering substantial reductions in accidents and casualties.

"But I want cameras to be linked more closely to wider road safety. That is why I am increasing the amount of money available for spending on road safety, giving them a new fund of £110 million.

"In some places cameras will still be the solution, and can be funded through this money. In other places there will be alternative solutions which this funding can cover.

"In 2004, the UK had the lowest number on record of people killed in road accidents. We are committed to reducing that number even further. I firmly believe that the changes I have announced today will do that."

Today's announcement relates to England and Wales, with the responsibility for safety cameras in Wales transferring to the Welsh National Assembly in 2007/08.

The current funding scheme for partnerships will last through the 2006/07 financial year.

But Mr Darling said there would be changes to the existing rules for this final year.

There would be improvements to the signing of cameras to further assist drivers to recognise and comply with the speed limit.

Also, where possible, speed limits and camera signs should be shown in the same place so that drivers can, at the same time, see the camera and see what the speed limit is for that section of road.

Mr Darling stressed the review of A and B road speed limits may lead to inappropriately low speed limits being raised, as well as inappropriately high speed limits being lowered.

He went on: "We wish to encourage motorists to have greater respect for speed limits generally."

Cameras are erected at areas with a history of accidents.

Mr Darling said today that deployment criteria will:

* Take account of all injury accidents as well as the level of people killed or seriously injured;

* Look back five years rather than three;

* Allow camera enforcement on routes where there is a serious problem of speeding and casualties, without the problem necessarily being concentrated at one particular location.

The four-year report on cameras was prepared by PA Consulting and University College London and examined more than 4,000 camera sites in 38 safety camera partnership areas, including Scotland.

The report found:

* The number of vehicles exceeding the speed limit fell by 70% at fixed camera sites;

* After allowing for the general trend of improving road safety, there was a 22% reduction in personal injury collisions (PICs) - around 4,230 fewer per year;

* Again after allowing for the general trend, there was a 42% reduction in the number of people killed or seriously injured - around 1,745 fewer per year;

* This includes more than 100 fewer people killed a year;

* On average, the number of killed and seriously injured fell by around 50% at fixed sites, and by around 35% at mobile sites.