Local councils, strapped for cash, are seeking new ways to generate money – by slapping fines on motorists for minor offences. West Midlands mayor, Andy Street, has written to the government to change regulations and give local authorities the power to fine drivers for a range of minor offences, currently in the hands of the police outside London.

Costly mistakes

Councils want to be able to punish drivers for violations that include stopping in box junctions, illegal U-turns and stopping in cycle boxes at traffic lights. Those in favour say that councils are better equipped to find and track down offenders, and then collect the fines, rather than placing the burden on the police, who are facing a shortage of road police officers at the moment.

However, campaigners are concerned that local authorities are merely trying to squeeze more money out of drivers to deal with the problems they are having with their budgets. Currently, everywhere apart from London and Cardiff see ‘moving traffic restrictions’ handled by the police except for bus lanes. The Local Government Association (LGA) and the West Midlands mayor are among those campaigning for a change and broader powers.

Increasing income

The LGA wants to see more cameras at box junctions, junctions, and cycle lanes to create revenue that would go back into the road network. They also say they are losing money due to cuts in road traffic officer numbers, meaning people are getting away with more than they did before.

The AA has raised concerns that councils would issue penalties to raise cash to fill holes in their budgets. They described the record of enforcement for some councils as ‘atrocious’ including the use of signs and road markings mean that drivers are often penalised for being in the wrong position due to a lack of understanding of the road layout. An example came from Preston where bus lane restrictions were re-enforced and generated £115,000 in fines in a single week.

Police powers

Roads minister, Mr Jesse Norman, confirmed that Parliament had received a written question from the LGA, which represents some 18 local authorities and the West Midlands Combined Authority.
The letter called for powers for councils, under the Traffic Management Act 2004, based on the efforts to ‘manage traffic contraventions and reduce congestion’ with authorities also raising the issue at regular engagement meetings.

However, Mr Norman rejected the pleas, saying that the necessary powers to act where needed were already in place and that the government had no plans to change the legislation. LGA spokesman, Martin Tett, said that the organisation would continue to press for reform claiming that it would allow councils to ‘tackle impatient drivers who break the law and put others at risk’ with the aim of shaving seconds off their journey.

Christmas gloom

An example of councils making income from drivers committing minor infringements came about on Christmas Day – the one day of the year when public transport does not run, and many drivers think it is okay to use bus lanes.

Sheffield was one of the worst with 141 drivers receiving a fine of £30 which increased to £60 if they did not pay it within 14 days. Leicester City Council fined another 46 motorists for using a single stretch of a bus lane.

Perhaps the worst story was Lee Williamson who pulled over to give some clothes and food to a homeless man on Christmas Day – and received a £70 fine from the council for his charity. The penalty has since been revoked after a huge public outcry.

Surprisingly expensive

If the LGA do get their way, the cost of such errors can be extortionate for drivers. For example, stopping in a yellow box if you are not turning right, can cost you £70 outside London and up to £130 within the capital. A bus lane infringement can cost you up to £90, if you do not pay within 28 days of receiving the notice, meaning drivers could be seeing more and more letters coming through the door demanding money if the LGA get their way.

Overall, drivers in Britian probably get away with a fair few minor motoring offences

Do you think that the LGA should be dealing with minor motoring offences? What side do you stand on? Let us know in the comments below

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