Powers to charge drivers for “moving traffic offences” are currently held by police but under regulations going through Parliament now councils will be able to apply to take these on later this year.
It will mean councils will be responsible for policing everything from driving in cycle lanes to ignoring no entry signs.
At the moment only councils in London and Cardiff have the authority to fine drivers for moving traffic offences but for years other local authorities have demanded the same powers to tackle problem drivers themselves rather than relying on overstretched police forces.
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The Government is now implementing Part 6 of the Traffic Management Act 2004, which will allow all 300 councils in England to apply for the power. However, it will not automatically transfer responsibility to local authorities. Instead, they will have to apply to central government for an order to be made designating the council as the enforcement authority in its area.
Once such an order is made, councils will be able to fine drivers £70 for minor traffic offences such as ignoring road signs or blocking junctions, raising fears that councils could use such powers as an easy way to raise revenue.
A Freedom of Information request by the RAC revealed that councils in London and Cardiff made £58.2 million from moving traffic offence penalty charges in 2018/19, a 25 per cent jump on just two years earlier.
Transport Minister Baroness Vere announced her intention to implement the changes last year, saying: “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.”
At the time, the RAC’s Simon Williams called for warning letters to be issued to first time offenders. He 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.
“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.”