Liberal Democrat councillor Sara Bedford has accused the county council of refusing to hand over information from ‘speed indicator devices’ to the police – despite a number of requests.

The devices, known as SIDs, tell motorists whether they are driving within the speed limit or going too fast – by presenting a smiley or sad face.

And police, say Cllr Bedford, have indicated that the data from the devices would give them a good picture of where motorists were speeding and at what time of day.

At a meeting of the county council last Tuesday (March 26), Cllr Bedford – who is also leader of Three Rivers District Council – said that she was aware of at least three occasions when the police had asked the county council for data.

But she said on each occasion the request, made under the Freedom of Information Act, had been refused – citing claims the county council did not have the data, as it had not been downloaded.

At the meeting Cllr Bedford asked executive member for resources and performance Cllr Ralph Sangster to ensure that data was available on request and at reasonable intervals.

She said: “One of the best tools the public have to hold us to account and ensure transparency is the Freedom of Information Act .

“However it appears the county council is not keeping within the spirit of the act.

“A number of us installed SIDs in our divisions as an aid to road safety – and very popular they are too.

“As well as a visual reminder to slow down the SIDs store anonymised data on traffic speed, which is very helpful to local groups, residents and traffic police.

“Yet the county council will not release this data, claiming that it does not hold the information – because it has not yet been downloaded.

“This is disingenuous in the extreme and being used as a way of denying this useful data to other authorities, the police and residents.

“The only way the information can be obtained is if permission is obtained from the local county member – it’s not their information, or indeed ours – it’s the public’s.”

Cllr Sangster told he county council this was not just a Freedom of Information issue, but a service issue as well.

He suggested that there may have been some serious concerns abut the quality of the data contained in the current SIDs system and that it may be that the existing policy is not to release “poor information”.

But he said he would take this up with the executive member for highways Cllr Phil Bibby and respond further.

Cllr Bedford told Cllr Sangster that if the police thought the information was useful, then the county council should try to provide it.

She said: “The police believe that it would be extremely useful information so they would know which times of day it’s best to target their speed checks and  give them an idea which areas are a problem.

“I think if the police are saying that its useful then we should at least try and provide it.”

And she said that the reason cited for not handing over the information – in he three cases she was aware of – was not that the information was “poor”, but that it was not held.