FIXED speed cameras in Dorset may be switched off this autumn as spending cuts continue to take their toll on networks across the country.

Bournemouth and Poole councils as well as Dorset county council have cut their camera funding and Dorset Road Safe, formerly known as the Dorset Safety Camera Partnership, has terminated its contract with a PR company.

As neighbouring county Wiltshire becomes the latest council to announce plans to axe its speed cameras this autumn, the Daily Echo can reveal that plans to turn off cameras in Dorset were unveiled at a meeting between Dorset county council officers and local councillors.

Ferndown mayor Cllr Jean Read was among those who attended the traffic working party meeting at the town’s Pavilion earlier this week.

She said a county council officer had confirmed that camera funding was being reviewed with the possibility that the network could be switched off in October, adding: “I don’t think it’s a good idea to take deterrents away.”

Another Echo source who was present at the meeting said a senior county council officer had announced that speed cameras would be switched off because of budget cuts.

Insiders say the switch-off will be following the summer break to minimise disruption.

The revelation comes just days after Dorset, Bournemouth and Poole councils pledged their support to the Dorset Safety Camera Partnership.

Ian Belchamber from Poole-based campaign website Dorset Speed said: “Many councils are breathing a sign of relief and jumping on the bandwagon as quickly as they can now that they can blame it on ‘budget cuts.’ The inevitable is finally happening.”

Wiltshire and Swindon Camera Safety Partnership has folded and Somerset is planning to axe nine of its 26 speed traps in coming weeks.

Oxfordshire’s entire network of 72 cameras is being shut down and Northamptonshire has switched off eight of their 42 cameras.

Buckinghamshire has said it is “very likely” to switch off its cameras while Bedfordshire, Suffolk and Derbyshire have all launched reviews.

Councils across the country have been battling to cope with reductions in central government funding which has seen the road safety grant for 2010-11 slashed by 40 per cent.

Crucially, the capital grant – a £17.2 million annual fund that typically pays for the cameras – has also been abolished.

Dorset county council has cut its camera funding by 20 per cent from £1.3 million to £950,000. Bournemouth council has reduced its funding to £200,000 while the borough of Poole has chopped funding from £417,000 to £159,000.

The county council’s highways and transport cabinet member Peter Finney said: “We will continue to support the partnership while we have the funds to do so. We will look at our options again following the government’s autumn spending review.”

Cllr Mike White, the borough of Poole’s cabinet portfolio holder for transportation, said: “A reduction in central government funding has inevitably had an impact on Dorset Road Safe funding.” He added: “Negotiations with our partners are on-going.”

Bournemouth council’s cabinet member for transport Cllr Michael Filer said reduced funding to the partnership would be reviewed in line with any further government cuts, adding: “We believe camera enforcement still has a role to play in road safety.”

A Dorset Road Safe spokeswoman told the Echo: “We cannot confirm the budget as it has not been approved yet.”

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