IN THE Wars of the Roses, I tend to be strictly neutral. I’m from Derbyshire and, as an East Midlander the only people I really hate on tribal lines are West Midlanders. I lived happily in the Lancashire Pennines for 20 years before moving to the Yorkshire Dales another 20 years ago and, indeed, was once Editor of Lancashire Life.
However, I rarely go to Lancashire now, unless forced to do so by business. And sadly, this is beginning to apply more and more to Cumbria too. This has nothing to do with the countryside, the traffic or the people. It is due to the speed cameras.
For road safety – or tax?
Just over five years ago, I picked up a £60 ticket for doing 42 mph on a wide stretch of Lancashire trunk road where in the distance of a few miles the speed limit varied between no limit, 50 mph and 30 mph in stretches only a few hundred yards long.
Having finally got back to a clean licence, I got another last year, this time in Cumbria on a busy stretch of road between Kendal and Windermere which I had travelled for years. I did not notice that speed limits had recently been applied and, if signs had been erected, I missed seeing them.
Like most victims of speed cameras, I gritted my teeth and cursed my own carelessness at not spotting any warning signs or the cameras themselves. For in 40 previous years of motoring, at one time covering 30,000 miles a year, I had only picked up one urban speeding ticket (and that was in Lancashire, too) so I resolved to be more careful.
But my sense of unfair play came back with a vengeance this week when it was reported that since New Labour came to power, the number of speeding tickets have doubled and now rake in a stupendous £240,000 a day. In 2007, almost 1,500,000 speeding tickets were issued which brought in a staggering £88 million! The Tory party says that the speeding fine has become yet one more “stealth tax” under Labour, which has a long record for milking the motorist, a claim which Labour hotly deny. It is all about road safety, they say, and nothing to do with boosting revenue.
Now I tend not to believe anything any politicians says, whatever the party, unless someone can come up with some proof (not that this is particularly difficult these days, it would appear). But some more striking statistics came out this week and they showed that – surprise, surprise – some of the largest numbers of speed cameras are located in counties which have Labour-controlled county councils.
One of the biggest offenders is Lancashire which, since 2001 has issued more than half a million speeding tickets. Cumbria, which is busy erecting a forest of speed signs and cameras in the South Lakes, - much to the outrage of my friends in what used to be Westmorland - is also Labour controlled because of bigger voter numbers in Carlisle and the northern coastal towns.
Conservative-run North Yorkshire County Council is not one of those local authorities bent on raising millions for the Labour government
But there is worse to come: it is now official Government policy to reduce legal speed limits on single carriageway country roads to 50 mph from its present sixty and impose 20 mph limits in many urban areas. All in the name of road safety, of course, although Britain’s roads are the safest in Europe for the amount of traffic they carry.
The nation had a chuckle on Wednesday when the man who runs the biggest speed camera company in England – and has no doubt done very well indeed in these boom years which, in his case, never end – was banned from driving for doing 102 mph on a dual carriageway in East Anglia.
I am not condoning such speed but he no doubt is a busy man and there are quite a few busy men here in the Yorkshire Dales who have to go about their daily routines on poor roads often congested with slow-moving tourist traffic, caravans, quarry wagons and farm tractors. At 50 mph, they will be unable to overtake these slower vehicles so our roads – in summer at least – will become one slow moving logjam.
Here, of course, we have a silver lining. Conservative-run North Yorkshire County Council is not one of those local authorities bent on raising millions for the Labour government. On the A65, they are even installing solar-powered signs which warn if you are going too fast – but don’t issue a ticket. I know where they are and no longer go fast enough to trigger their warning – i.e., they achieve their road safety purpose.
So is there a lesson here for the many Daelnet readers who live over the North Yorkshire borders in Lancashire and Cumbria. The county council and European Parliament elections are due on June 4. As I have to drive through your counties from time to time, could you do me – and yourselves - a big favour and vote against the Speed Camera Faction?