£1.25m: speed cameras rake in big surplus

SPEED cameras in Hertfordshire raked in a £1.25m PROFIT in a year — the second highest in the UK.

Some 58,556 fines were paid by drivers in Herts — suggesting around one in 10 motorists in the county received a ticket.

More than £3,400 profit is made every day by the county's legion of cameras.

The release of accounts from safety camera partnerships nationwide, which made a £17m profit, has prompted speculation that the growth of cameras will accelerate.

Current rules stipulate that the partnerships must pay any profit to the Treasury, unless they spend it on more cameras.

Hertfordshire has 116 fixed cameras and seven red light cameras, plus a team of mobile camera vehicles that tour 52 sites. Between them, they raked in more than £3.5m in 2004-05, but £2.3m of that was swallowed up in costs, leaving a healthy profit of £1.25m.

In a league table of 35 partnership areas, Hertfordshire came second behind Northumbria, where £1.7m profit was made.

A spokeswoman for Herts County Council, which runs the partnership with the police and magistrates' court service, said: "We're not awash with money. We don't make a 'profit' — we give the money to the Treasury after we've reinvested some on cameras."

But Hertford motorist Keith Bardle, of Rib Vale, Bengeo, who is in dispute with the partnership over the location of a mobile camera, said: "They are out to make as much money as they can.

"I would like to see the money spent on a better police service to help catch criminals rather than them going after the easy touch."

Changes to how speed camera profits can be spent were announced this month by Transport Secretary Alistair Darling. From 2007-08, money from speeding fines will be ploughed into wider road safety schemes.

Clearer signage will be introduced around camera sites, with speed limit signs and camera signs in the same place where possible.

The announcement came as a study of speed cameras concluded that they do save lives and reduce accidents.

In Hertfordshire, deaths and serious injuries at camera sites have reduced by nearly 70 per cent — the third highest in the country — and personal injury collisions are down 38 per cent.