A BID by police to have community councils pay for a new speed gun to tackle dangerous drivers in south-west Edinburgh came under renewed fire today as critics attacked the attempt to leave local groups footing the bill.
The force was blasted for asking each of seven community organisations to pay £500 towards the handheld £3700 device in a move which came like a “bolt from the blue”.
Councillors in the Pentland Hills and Colinton-Fairmilehead wards today said that speeding motorists remained a concern in a number of locations, but the deployment of a speed gun must come from the police budget.
Lothian and Borders Police approached community councils to fund the purchase of a Pro-Laser III device in the wake of speeding fears, but added that in “these times of limited financial resources and competing demands on those resources, the force is not in a position to purchase additional equipment”.
Councillor Dominic Heslop, who represents the Pentland Hills ward, said: “I’m very concerned that local groups are being faced with having to pay for speed guns which should be the job of the police.
“Obviously there are concerns about speeding, particularly somewhere like Lanark Road where there have been a number of accidents and fatalities over the years, but that does not mean that local groups should be footing the bill to tackle this problem.”
Councillor Bill Henderson, who also represents Pentland Hills, said: “I think the speed guns are needed and the police are right in trying to get the funds for them from somewhere, but the money should not be coming from the community councils. Some community councils have a bit of money, but I understand that these ones are pretty cash-strapped.
“The police are thinking outside the box to get the money, but community councils are not the place.”
Cllr Henderson added that speeding was an issue in a number of areas. He said: “There have been a lot of 20mph zones introduced in various housing estates in Balerno, Baberton Mains and Currie, and many drivers either don’t realise or don’t abide by the new limits.
“There’s also a problem on Lanark Road West at the Riccarton end, which has a 30mph limit but has been described as a speed track.”
Community councils in Balerno, Currie, Juniper Green, Ratho, Fairmilehead and Firrhill, as well as Colinton Amenity Association, were approached by the police. It is understood the city council would advise community groups that paying for speed guns would not be an appropriate use of its funding grants.
Councillor Jason Rust, who represents the Colinton/Fairmilehead ward, said: “The community councils received a bit of a shock when they were contacted about this. It’s my understanding that the councils in Colinton and Fairmilehead didn’t have an ongoing dialogue with police about tackling speeding. It seems to have been a bolt from the blue.
“Community councils have limited resources and there is criteria for what they spend any money on. They receive local authority grants and I’m not sure that speed guns would meet that criteria.
“I would not think the cost of a speed gun was that great in the grand scheme of things for the police, whereas it would be a large sum for a community council.
“With the country moving towards a single police force, I think we need to look at what provisions the police need to make as part of their service rather than looking at groups with little funding to provide them instead.”
Councillor Elaine Aitken, who also represents Colinton/Fairmilehead, said: “I would have thought the police should supply speed guns. The community councils are basically funded by the city council so they have the money available to run themselves. There is very little spare cash. The police perhaps did not appreciate how tight those budgets are and their purpose.”
Cllr Aitken said she had already requested speed audits on Swanston Avenue and Pentland View because of speeding concerns on those streets.
Police said yesterday that Balerno community council had offered to contribute towards a speed gun purchase, and letters were then sent to other groups to “seek their views”.