Government is 'out of touch' - Richard Bacon

SOUTH Norfolk MP Richard Bacon has accused the government of being 'out of touch' with rural communities after calling on more support to help set up road safety schemes.

SOUTH Norfolk MP Richard Bacon has accused the government of being 'out of touch' with rural communities after calling on more support to help set up road safety schemes.

Dozens of Community Speed Watch initiatives have sprung up across the county since a successful pilot two years ago to crackdown on speeding drivers.

The Department for Transport was last week urged to do more to promote the volunteer-run schemes to help improve road safety for pedestrians and cyclists.

A report by a cross-party group of MPs raised concerns about the 'unacceptable' number of deaths after 646 pedestrians and 136 cyclists were killed on Britain's roads in 2007.

Mr Bacon, a member of the Commons public accounts committee, said the government needed to make it easier for rural residents and police to form new Community Speed Watch schemes.

The Tory MP, who recently visited Speed Watch volunteers in Morley St Botolph said the teams were doing valuable work to help free up local police time. He added that he was 'surprised' that ministers were unaware of the steps local communities were taking to keep their roads safe.

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'These schemes are very good news for local communities who are fed up with drivers refusing to treat rural speed limits with respect. The Department for Transport should look at the success of the Community Speed Watch programme and make it easier for communities and police forces to set up new schemes,' he said.

Peter Chapman, Community Speed Watch coordinator for Norfolk Police, who oversees the county's 38 volunteer teams and has 20 more ready to roll out, welcomed Mr Bacon's comments.

'Casualty reduction is one the main police targets and this is a scheme for communities to assist the police in deterring speeding drivers. The county council has been very supportive and it would be better if the government also contributed,' he said.

Community Speed Watch was launched in 2007 following a trial in Hopton, near Yarmouth, and equips volunteers with radar guns and training to record traffic speeds. Offending vehicle owners are sent a warning letter and persistent speeders can face police enforcement.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: 'We are fully aware of the huge contribution that local authorities and the emergency services make to improving road safety. The department gives �110m to local authorities each year to spend on road safety schemes which will deliver the greatest road safety benefits in their area.'

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