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Fears new council powers could see drivers used as cash cows

New council powers could see drivers faced with bills collectively costing millions of pounds for moving traffic offences such as stopping on yellow boxes.

Local authorities in England and Wales can only currently enforce bus lane contraventions, but DfT plans could see them join the London boroughs and Cardiff in being able to fine for wider moving traffic offences

Currently only the London boroughs and Cardiff Council have the power to enforce these offences in England and Wales, but the Department for Transport confirmed on 27 July 2020 that it plans to enable all local authorities in England and Wales to enforce wider moving traffic offences, not just the current bus lane contraventions.

And it’s a move that could prove lucrative for councils and crushing for drivers; not least considering there are 343 authorities in England (including the 32 London boroughs) and 22 in Wales.

Latest figures from the RAC showed authorities in London and Cardiff alone raked in £58.2m from such offences in 2018/19 – 25% (£11.5m) more than in 2016/17 (£46.7m), according to the Freedom of Information request.

And the percentage increase in the number of PCNs issued by London boroughs and Cardiff was greater than the revenue increase. In 2016/17 councils issued 752,871 PCNs, rising to 1,007,405 in 2018/19 which equates to a 34% rise.

Yellow box junctions brought revenue of £31.4m in 2018/19 compared to £22.3m for ‘no turn’ offences and £4.4m for ‘no-entry’ contraventions. The highest revenues per enforced junction was seen in Westminster, which generated £333,295 from 4,595 PCNs from one spot.

RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: “It’s plain for all to see that London boroughs, TfL and Cardiff are generating phenomenal sums of money from the enforcement of moving traffic offences.”

While the vast majority of drivers that the RAC surveyed agree that those offending need to be penalised, many are concerned over extending powers to other councils.

A total of 68% think local authorities will rush to install cameras to generate additional revenue.

Four in 10 drivers (39%) also believe that road layouts and signage will be made deliberately confusing to increase the number of PCNs issued.

Instead, the RAC is calling for the priority for enforcement to be on improving road safety and reducing congestion.

To help ensure the extension of enforcement powers to other local authorities is carried out fairly, the RAC also says guidance is needed on where enforcement should be targeted and the types of signs that must be used to make drivers aware that enforcement cameras are operating, and for what type of moving traffic offence.

Such guidance should make clear the circumstances in which a PCN can be appealed and where mitigating circumstances may apply such as stopping in a yellow box to allow an emergency services vehicle to go by.

And the RAC agreed with proposals that first offenders are sent a warning letter before subsequent penalties apply.

“What we do not want is this being seen by cash-strapped local authorities as a way to generate revenue,” commented Lyes.

“In addition, we would urge local authorities to publish annual reports of moving traffic offence receipts by type and by junction. We would also encourage them to monitor hot spots where an unusually high proportion of PCNs are issued as this is more than likely a clear indication of a problem with signage or road layout.”

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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. Natalie edits all the Fleet World websites and newsletters, and loves to hear about any latest industry news.