Hertfordshire Leading in Money Generation

One document about the use of Speed Awareness and other Driver Offender Retraining Courses that was recently brought to my attention is a report published by Hertfordshire County Council in October 2016. Hertfordshire Council is different in the way many such courses are organised and run in that they actually run the courses themselves rather than have a third party commercial organisation run them.

In addition the document (see www.tinyurl.com/mfr63e8 ) explains the history of their involvement in the running of such courses dating as far back as 1995 which makes it clear that they one of the first to jump on this bandwagon. The number of drivers attending such courses in Herfordshire has grown from 275 in 1996//97 to 41,641 in 2015/16. In the last year these generated gross income of £3.7 million and net income of £947,000 after expenses. The expenses include the cost of running the courses (venues, staff costs, etc), and £1.63 million to NDORS (£40 per driver, of which £35 gets paid to the referring police force and £5 retained by NDORS).

The net income is spent on “discretionary road safety activity” such as school crossing patrols, road safety education, cycle training and to support the safety camera partnership. Yes Hertfordshire County Council is also a member of the Hertfordshire Safety Camera Partnership along with the police and the Courts.

What is pernicious about all of this? Local Councils set speed limits so you can see that Hertfordshiare might have a financial interest in reducing the limits so as to enable more prospective prosecutions and offers of speed awareness courses. And clearly if money from course fees is recycled to fund the safety camera partnership they are likely to purchase more cameras so as to generate even more revenue and “jobs for the boys”.

This whole arrangement is typical of the financial incentives that have been driving the spread of speed cameras and the massive increase in speeding fines. There is no evidence that it has had any impact on road safety.

And who is the author of the Hertfordshire Council report? One Ian Powell, Road Safety Team Leader. Now it seems he is also Chairman of the National Association of Driver Intervention Providers (NADIP). That is apparently a trade body formed to promote the interests of course providers – see: https://ndors.org.uk/courses/how-become-course-provider/. You can see that this “industry” has now reached such a size that it needs a body to protect its interests!

But at least the Hertfordshire report does say that “The Alliance of British Drives along with others is questioning of the effectiveness of courses and the use of surplus revenue generated from fees”. Pity about the grammar errors but otherwise they certainly got that right.

Roger Lawson

Advertisements

Evidence of Course Profits from LTT

Local Transport Today, the magazine read by local authority traffic engineers, have published an interesting article on the activities of Hertfordshire County Council in their provision of Speed Awareness Courses.

The article notes that there are 24 accredited course operators. That includes three private sector organisations, six police forces and 15 local authorities. All of them can generate very substantial profits above the costs incurred in providing the courses. For example, LTT report that Hertfordshire County Council generated a surplus of £947,000 in 2015/2016 by delivering 1,891 courses attended by 41,641 drivers giving income of £3.7 million (source: Local Transport Today). Hertfordshire are apparently looking to expand their “business activities” in this area according to Chief Executive John Wood. One can see why when it is such a money spinner.

The police and local authorities may well spend some the surplus from running courses on road safety measures (there is no legal obligation to do so) but private sector operators can simply lose the profits in high salaries and directors fees. For example in October 2015 the Sun Newspaper ran an article that suggested the directors of AA Drivetech received £5.5 million in directors fees in 2013.

One disturbing aspect is that although the police do not set speed limits or determine the location of speed cameras, they do advise on those matters. But local authorities do directly control speed limits so they may well have a financial incentive to lower limits and introduce more cameras so as to increase the demand for speed awareness courses and the hence the profits they receive.

Roger Lawson