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Councils outside London to have powers to fine drivers from December

Councils in England and Wales will be able to fine drivers for minor ‘moving traffic’ offences, such as yellow box junctions, from December this year.

Previous RAC research has found eight in 10 drivers (80%) struggle to get through yellow box junctions without stopping

The move has been in the making since last year and will see councils able to give drivers a £70 fine for offences including driving down no-entry roads and in official cycle lines. Currently only the London boroughs and Cardiff Council can do this, but others have been calling for this to be extended for several years now.

The Department for Transport has now confirmed that it’s currently working on plans to bring forwards the legislation before the end of 2021.

Speaking to the Traffex industry event this week, Baroness Vere said: “Local authorities will need the tools to manage roads in the way that best serves local needs, which may vary in different parts of the country, and it is this ethos of localism that lies behind our decision to give more powers to local authorities under the Traffic Management Act.”

Since then, the Department for Transport has confirmed to Fleet World that it has the intention for councils to have these powers from December but added that “things can change”.

However, there are rising concerns that councils will use the new powers to generate additional revenues.

An FOI carried out by the RAC in August 2020 found authorities in London and Cardiff raked in £58.2m from moving traffic offences in 2018/19 – 25% (£11.5m) more than in 2016/17 (£46.7m).

Despite Baroness Vere saying that councils are expected to use these powers to improve air quality by reducing congestion – and that guidance will be published for local authorities so they can make drivers aware of the changes – the RAC has said more work will be needed to ensure the new powers are used fairly.

Spokesman Simon Williams said: “It’s right that councils outside London have the ability to enforce known rule-breaking hotspots, but we’re fearful that some authorities may be over enthusiastic in using their new powers for revenue raising reasons, to the detriment of drivers.

“While the Government has pledged to give councils advice on how best to let drivers know enforcement is taking place, what’s really needed is clear guidance on making sure enforcement is always carried out fairly. Drivers who blatantly ignore signage or highway rules should expect penalties, but there are instances which are not always clear-cut.

“For example, large yellow box junctions can be particularly problematic to get across without stopping, often due to their design, so it’s important common sense is applied rather than instantly issuing penalties to drivers. The first thing councils should do is review the road layout at these junctions to make sure drivers can negotiate them at all times, but especially at busy periods.”

Previous RAC research has found eight in 10 drivers (80%) struggle to get through yellow box junctions without stopping.

Williams also said that where a high instance of penalty charge notices are issued for a particular location, this would indicate something is wrong, either with signage or the design of the road, and that it would be wrong for drivers to have to pay up.

He continued: “More broadly, there’s a good argument for authorities to issue warning letters in the first instance rather than fines. We also believe drivers should be able to appeal easily if, for example, they receive a penalty for slightly moving into a yellow box to allow an emergency vehicle through.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day.