GWENT’s police chief is warning the UK government that cuts in speed camera funding will lead to more deaths on the road.

Chief Constable Mick Giannasi wrote to Mike Penning, the road safety minister, raising concerns over the government withdrawing funding for cameras.

Mr Giannasi, who speaks on road policing for the Association of Chief Officers (Acpo), said: “The emphasis is on road safety and saving people’s lives and there is distinct link between reducing speed and reducing the number of deaths on the roads.

“Speed cameras have had a huge impact on reducing speed and collisions. If you remove them people will speed and the number of deaths will go up.”

The government has cut £38million from this year’s road safety budget and Chief Constable Giannasi said the decision to cut 40 per cent of the road safety grant paid to local authorities, along with the decision not to fund new fixed cameras had led to unintended consequences.

He said: “Without speed cameras, the number of people speeding will inevitably rise and so will the number of deaths. It’s not just about catching people speeding, it’s about preventing deaths on our roads.”

Speaking to in the national press, Mr Giannasi said that some councils are switching off speed cameras as they can no longer afford to operate them and a rise in the number of road deaths is to be avoided, the government must take immediate action.

He added that there was no rift with the government, but he is "disappointed" with the level of leadership.

Speed cameras in Wales are controlled by Go Safe, the Wales Road Casualty Reduction Partnership, which is funded by the Assembly.

The partnership received £6,742,837 in funding for 2010/2011 and a Go Safe spokeswoman said there are no plans for the funding to be cut this financial year.

Figures from Go Safe show that the number of people killed or seriously injured on Welsh roads fell by around 41 per cent over the past 10 years, with the number of child casualties falling by around 55 per cent.

Go Safe was unable to provide figures for Gwent.

EDITORIAL COMMENT: Saving lives or generating revenue?

GWENT'S chief constable warns that lives will be put at risk if the government cuts the number of speed cameras.

What we would like to know from Mick Giannasi is how many lives have been saved or how much accident levels have fallen at sites where speed cameras are placed.

Mr Giannasi and the Association of Chief Police Officers, of which he heads the road policing division, are very quick to defend speed cameras.

We are not saying that it is acceptable to speed - far from it - but we have yet to see anything which leads us to believe that speed cameras are significantly cutting deaths and serious accidents on the road.

Mr Giannasi says that casualties have almost halved over an eight-year period due to the use of speed cameras.

In 18 years about 6,000 speed cameras have appeared on roads in the UK, generating about £100m in fines each year.

Oxfordshire County Council has already said it will switch off 72 fixed cameras in a bid to save money.

A large percentage of the public believes cameras are there to generate revenue.

We know that cameras are effective in cutting speed at their location, but that is not necessarily to say they are effective in cutting accidents else-where.

Once people know where cameras are, it seems, they simply slow down on approach and pick up speed again after they have passed them.

The unwary or absent-minded are caught and fined £60 or more.

And there are plenty of other measures that either slow drivers down or make them aware of their speed, such as road humps or speed indicators.

Until we are provided with figures for each speed camera in Gwent which show that since their introduction they have cut accidents at that location we will have the same degree of suspicion over their worth as many of our readers.

We hope we can be proved wrong.