A HARTLEPOOL transport chief has slammed a Government minister’s calls to scrap controversial camera cars – and says he is “missing the point”.
Tory communities minister Eric Pickles wants to “rein in over-zealous and unfair rules” and ban car-mounted cameras to support motorists rather than raise money.
But council chiefs deny that the town’s vehicle is a “cash cow”, and insist it has improved road safety.
Councillor Peter Jackson, chairman of the council’s neighbourhood services committee, said: “Mr Pickles is completely missing the point.
“Many councils across the country are now using camera cars to improve road safety and there is no doubt that they are the most effective way of monitoring and deterring illegal parking.
“They have been particularly effective in improving road safety around schools and we have received much praise from headteachers, residents and parents.”
Reports say a study by the Audit Commission found one in three councils was earning more money through parking charges and school meals than council tax.
The town’s £40,000 camera car has snared 3,842 drivers since it was launched in 2011, raking in around £134,470 in fines.
It comes just a day after the Mail told how town motorist Marc Wallace was slapped with a £35 fine after he pulled onto a cycle path in King Oswy Drive to help a friend who had been involved in an accident.
But Mr Jackson said the council has seen a positive change in driver attitudes since the car was introduced, with more drivers parking legally.
He said: “Doing away with the camera car will compromise safety on roads in our town, particularly for children and the elderly, and clearly this is not something that we support.
“It’s also totally false for Mr Pickles to suggest that the camera car is a money-maker for councils.
“The number of parking charge notices has actually decreased since the car was first introduced.
“Any revenue generated from the fines is used for the running of the services and reinvested in road safety and highway schemes.”
The council receives income from both fines and pay and display charges, with a surplus of £331,881 in 2011/12 and £278,826 in 2012/13.
Marc Wallace, 30, from the King Oswy area, who was asked to provide proof that he stopped to help after an accident after being fined, said: “I think traffic wardens would be better – you could actually speak to a traffic warden, you can’t to a car.”
Hartlepool MP Iain Wright doesn’t agree with Mr Pickles banning camera cars.
He said: “When used correctly, they keep people safe and make sure children are kept free from harm.
“I understand there’s enormous pressure on councils but we must make sure camera cars are not used just to generate money and become cash cows.
“I do agree however that people should have a better right of redress if they feel they were wrongly punished.”
The Conservatives’ proposals, which could come in before Easter, include allowing only visible traffic wardens to film vehicles and improving people’s rights of redress when fined inappropriately.