For a few years now the motorists in Southend have been menaced by the Southend Camera Cars. It has at times been suggested by various members of the public, and even Independent Councillors, that Southend Borough Council Highways Department were just using these vehicles to raise money, rather than the purpose for which they were meant; making our roads safer.

Martin Terry, spokesman for Southend Council’s Independent group of councillors, said that the cars were being used to unfairly target motorists.

He said: “There is clear evidence that, although the council has denied it, spy cars stalk customers of businesses. I’ve witnessed it with my own eyes. The spy car has stealthily hidden itself, then come out when people park.”

Mr Terry also wants more details from the council about where revenue from spy cars is used. He added: “I agree with the use of spy cars to deter dangerous parking, such as outside schools – that’s why I supported their introduction. But I don’t agree with them used to penalise people going about their lawful business.” – Source: http://www.guardian-series.co.uk/news/10960104.display/

On the 15th of October the Evening Echo newspaper reported that following remarks from the Government Minister Eric Pickles, Southend Council had decided to review their position on the use of enforcement cars. The Echo reported that Minister Pickles said “some councils were overzealous in how they used the camera cars”. The enforcement cars raised £485,950 in the period between July 2011 and March 2013. Southend Council alleges the cost to run the cars is about £220,000 per year.

The overzealous behaviour Mr Pickles was mentioning could be when the parents of Shoebury High School pupils were issued with tickets after their children got out of the car whilst they were stopped at a pedestrian crossing, allowing other children to cross the road. This is the same crossing at which I have dropped off my own children, in the exact same manner many times. It’s a common sense approach, with the alternative being to pull to the side of an already extremely narrow road, just before the crossing, and obscure the view for those children waiting to cross.

Or maybe he was referring to the blue badge holder who was issued with a ticket after he had momentarily stopped to drop off a disabled woman!

Southend Borough Council have now said that the cars will only be used to fine people who are causing a risk to public safety by parking directly outside schools, pedestrian crossings, bus stops and bus lanes. Which is good news for the small business around Southend, and may now allow some of their customers back.

The Toyota iQ’s fitted with a CCTV camera which can rotate in any direction, were also the scourge of driving instructors at A Pass 4 U in Southend. The driving instructors of Southend were also ticketed when stopped for a period of one minute whilst giving tuition or feedback and in some cases this was necessary to avoid dangerous situations.

It was also reported in the Evening Echo that the camera cars were so much disliked by the general public that even the former Parking Manager for Southend Council, Derek Kenyon was campaigning against the car’s use.

It goes without doubt that the people of Southend-on-Sea want a safer borough. If that means that they need to be more aware of their actions then I have no doubt they will do so, BUT let’s also hope that Southend Borough Council do follow through on their words and do curb the use of these “spy cars” wherever they can.

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