IN April - because of the 'austere times' - our constabulary at a strategic level decided to single out the St Ives & Ramsey Speedwatch Group (from the rest of Cambridgeshire's Speedwatch groups) for a cap of 500 letters per month (a third of its historical 1,500 per month summer needs).
Unfortunately, our group, that comprises some 70 volunteers who each seek to serve their respective 22 communities, appears to have become a victim of its own success.
The police resource shortfall was obvious to us in January when we first heard about a collaboration with Herts and Beds, whereby, from April, Cambridgeshire's 12,000-a-year letter-processing safety camera unit (SCU) would be disbanded and replaced with a new tri-county business support unit (BSU) that would process advisement letters for all of Cambridgeshire's speedwatch teams - an excellent concept.
That's why, on January 27, I wrote to Sir Graham Bright, Cambridgeshire's Police and Crime Commissioner, asking him to assure us that adequate provision had been made in the plan for the BSU to be able to process 50 per cent more letters than the SCU managed. Surprisingly, the police 'strategic' response was an immediate, non-negotiable, letter cap of 500 per month on us.
So far, the PCC has been unsuccessful in having that cap removed or in finding ways of providing extra resources to deal with our summer letter excess, even after my suggesting the use of unpaid police support volunteers (as used by Thames Valley Police) and ideas for alternative financing.
Also, it appears that there is no funding for Speedwatch in the PCC's 2013/14 policing plan.
The PCC is meeting the Chief Constable shortly to attempt to resolve the resource problems and to ensure that if, indeed, there are to be letter restrictions imposed to meet available resources, that any capping is proportional and fair across all teams using the scant resources of the BSU and not just focused on our group because it's bigger.
Speedwatch continues but we are now more discerning to ensure all deserving, deliberate and serious speeders get letters.
St Ives & Ramsey
Editor's note: Insp Mark Greenhalgh said: "The Speedwatch scheme is a valuable tool which can assist us in putting resources to where there are problems with speeding.
"The force fully supports the scheme and use of volunteers, however, we have a number of other schemes across the county and we have to make sure that our resources are available to support all of them and not just focus on one area.
"St Ives and Ramsey send out more than 500 letters per month, which is the highest in the force. We had to set a limit due to the cost and resource implications it was having during these austere times."