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UK Councils Handed Powers to Fine Motorists

All councils in England and Wales will soon be handed powers to fine motorists up to £70 for traffic offences as new road enforcement powers come in to place from December 2021, the Department for Transport (DfT) has confirmed. London and Cardiff already have powers to enforce moving traffic offences, a responsibility normally carried out by the police using Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras.

With new legislation in place enabling councils to apply to take these powers away from the police, drivers can be fined as much as £70 for minor offences like traffic yellow-box junction infringements or making an illegal turn. The DfT said giving these new powers to councils across the country would “free up police resources”.

One spokesperson from the motor trade industry, Simon Williams from the RAC, was “fearful” some councils may use these powers to raise additional revenue as authorities in London and Cardiff generated over £58m from traffic offences over a 12-month period back in 2018/2019.

Over 30m of these fines issued were from yellow-box junction infringements which prove lucrative for authorities across both these capital cities, with one yellow box junction in Westminster alone generating a staggering £330K. While three different authorities raised over £2m from ‘no turn’ offences, and ‘no entry’ offences generated £549,785 of revenue for just one council.

In a recent statement Transport Minister, 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.

Councils will be expected to use these new powers to boost active travel, reduce congestion and improve air quality, they will also be required to make motorists and the motor trade industry fully aware when enforcement is being carried out.

Simon Williams (RAC) 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.

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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.”

Currently most Penalty Charge Notices issued are halved when paid within a fortnight of a ticket being issued, and any penalty points can impact the cost of a private and motor trade insurance policy. Hopefully though, the priority for any future penalty enforcement carried out will only be used to improve road safety and reduce congestion for all road users.