EVERY speed camera in Oxfordshire will be switched off next week and the current drink driving, mobile phone and seatbelt checks will be halted.
Thames Valley Safer Roads Partnership – the body that has co-ordinated the police enforcement for a decade – has closed down all operations in the county after its funding from Oxfordshire County Council was slashed.
But they will continue in Berkshire and Buckinghamshire because those councils have not withdrawn funding.
Last night Thames Valley Police, a member of the partnership, refused to say if it will carry out any enforcement work as it admitted the cut could lead to more accidents on Oxfordshire’s roads.
Mobile camera vans have already been withdrawn and 72 fixed speed cameras and seven ‘red light’ cameras will be mothballed by August 1.
As reported in the Oxford Mail, the county council has cut its funding for the partnership by £600,000 this year in its bid to make £11m savings.
The partnership, funded by councils, was set up in 2000 and since then deaths on Oxfordshire’s roads have fallen by 52 per cent.
The partnership’s communications manager Dan Campsall said the organisation had no option but to cease all enforcement immediately because of the cut.
He added: “The serious concern is we will see the number of deaths and casualties on the roads rise.”
The partnership ‘buys’ six dedicated police officers to carry out operations across the Thames Valley from the police force.
The police refused to confirm if they would take over operations in Oxfordshire. In a brief statement, Assistant Chief Constable John Campbell said: “We are naturally concerned that the withdrawal of Oxfordshire from the partnership may impact on the number of serious collisions in the county.
“Thames Valley Police will continue to work with the local authorities in Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, who remain in the Safer Roads Partnership.”
Government support used by Oxfordshire County Council to fund its contribution to the partnership was cut by about £300,000. But the council decided to pass on a £600,000 cut – 71 per cent of its agreed funding – and effectively withdraw from the partnership.
Mr Campsall said: “The 71 per cent cut only materialised a couple of days before the announcement.
“If they had only made a £300,000 cut we would have been able to continue.”
Ian Hudspeth, the county’s cabinet member for infrastructure, denied the withdrawal from the partnership would lead to an increase in road deaths.
He said road safety could be achieved through education and engineering work at blackspots – although he admitted road improvement projects would also be hit by county spending cuts.
“Based on evidence coming forward from Swindon (where cameras were switched off a year ago) it does appear turning cameras off will not increase road deaths,” he said.
“Speed is not necessarily a contributor to every fatality on the road.”
Last year, cameras in Oxfordshire clocked about 75,000 motoring offences which the partnership estimates would have raised more than £1m in revenue.
But all of the cash is returned to the government through the courts system.
Lionel Horner, of Headington, was caught by a speed camera earlier this year and welcomed the switch-off.
He said: “Automatic cameras cannot be sensible because they obey rules to the letter. The policeman in his car can be more tolerant of the extent of the crime.
“I’m in favour of a human being rather than a machine.”