Councils in England and Wales will be given new powers to fine motorists up to £70 for minor traffic offences such as stopping in yellow box junctions, illegal turns and driving in cycle lanes from early next year.
A new regulation being laid out by the Department for Transport next month should open the door in spring 2022 for councils to issue fines for these contraventions.
It will be the first time local authorities outside London and Cardiff will have powers to issue penalty charge notices for these types of offences, which are currently enforced by the police elsewhere in Britain.
The capital cities of England and Wales raked in £58.2million from penalties for these minor infringements in 2018/19, with more than half of funds generated – at £31.4million – from penalties for box junction offences, a report by the RAC revealed last year.
Power shift: DfT is setting out a change to regulation next month to allow councils in England and Wales to issue fines to drivers for minor offences, such as stopping in box junctions
The DfT confirmed to This is Money that all councils will be able to make an application to take responsibility for the enforcement of these minor contraventions once the regulations have been laid, which is due to take place in December.
A spokesperson for the Government department said councils in England and Wales will need to apply for the powers ‘which we can grant to them via Designation Orders, which is a form of secondary legislation’.
It means that councils are unlikely to be using the powers until late spring 2022.
The RAC has already raised concerns about the new rules, saying some authorities may be ‘over enthusiastic’ in using their new powers for revenue raising reasons, which will see a huge spike in fines being issued to drivers.
Types of minor traffic offences set to be enforced by councils from spring 2022
- Illegal turns
- Driving in a no entry zone
- Stopping in a box junction
- Driving the wrong way on a one-way street
- Illegal U-turns Driving in cycle lanes
- Failing to give way to oncoming traffic
They are being enforced in the capitals using ‘Big Brother’ style Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras scattered across the cities – which will likely be the same case across councils as authorities take control of enforcement.
The Transport Committee has been pushing for councils to be give powers to enforce these offence types for some time.
MPs have argued that tight police budgets and a decline in officer numbers means has resulted in ineffective enforcement of these minor offences.
The DfT reiterated its intention to extend rules to all councils in England and Wales in January, with Transport Minister Rachel Maclean saying it would take months to make changes to legislation to allow local authorities to sting motorists with fines for minor traffic offences.
‘Part 6 of the Traffic Management Act 2004 requires a set of statutory instruments to be made covering enforcement, level of penalties, financial provisions, approved devices, adjudication and representations and appeals,’ she explained earlier this year.
Among the list of minor moving traffic offences councils will be able to enforce includes motorists incorrectly driving in cycle lanes
Once in place, local authorities will be allowed to make applications to take control of enforcement powers in their areas – a process that can begin from December this year.
Simon Williams, RAC spokesman, said it was right for councils in England and Wales to have the ability to enforce known rule-breaking hotspots, but added that the motoring organisation is ‘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,’ he told This is Money.
‘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.’
Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras are currently used in London and Cardiff to enforce fines at junctions with no turn signals, such as this one in Holborn
Williams said councils should firstly review their road layouts at junctions to ensure drivers can negotiate them at all times – especially during busy periods – without confusion.
He also said that councils should act responsibly by monitoring the number of PCNs issued in areas found to be offence hotspots to identify if there is incorrect signage or design of roads that is causing so many motorists to breach rules.
‘More broadly, there’s a good argument for authorities to issue warning letters in the first instance rather than fines,’ he said.
‘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.’
While fines of up to £70 can be applied for such offences, councils will be forced to offer discounts for PCNs that are paid early – usually within 14 days of being issued.
London and Cardiff authorities pocket almost £60m from minor moving traffic offences a year, says RAC
Authorities in London and Cardiff pocketed revenues of £4.4million for ‘no entry’ contraventions in 2018/19
London and Cardiff pocketed a combined £58.2million from drivers who committed moving traffic offences in a year, according to a report published by the RAC last year.
More than half of the fines – at £31.4million – were from yellow-box junction infringements in the financial year 2018/19, which continue to prove lucrative for authorities across both capitals.
One of these junctions, a yellow box in Westminster generated a staggering £333,295, the investigation found.
The enforcement of these in the two cities increased by 25 per cent compared to two years earlier, a comparison to previous studies highlighted.
A similar investigation by the RAC found that authorities raked in £46.7million from these types of fines in 2016/17 – meaning an additional profit of £11.5million in the 2018/19 financial year earnings.
The figures were revealed after the motoring group issued a freedom of information request to all local authorities that are currently able to enforce these offences in England and Wales.
Commenting on the findings of last year’s report, the RAC said the percentage increase in the number of PCNs issued 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 per cent hike.
Yellow box junctions were – yet again – by far the most lucrative.
Drivers can be fined up to £130 for unlawfully stopping in a yellow box, though most PCNs issued will halve this cost if paid within a fortnight of the ticket being issued.
Motorists caught stopping in them by CCTV cameras were fined a combined £31.4milllion in 2018/19, compared to £22.3million for ‘no turn’ offences and £4.4million for ‘no entry’ contraventions.
At the time the report was published, RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said that London boroughs, TfL and Cardiff had been ‘generating phenomenal sums of money’ from the enforcement of moving traffic offences.
‘The vast majority of drivers we’ve surveyed agree that those who stop on yellow boxes, make illegal turns or go through ‘no entry’ signs need to be penalised, but when it comes to extending powers to other councils many are concerned, with 68 per cent thinking local authorities will rush to install cameras to generate additional revenue.’
Lyes added that four in 10 drivers (39 per cent) also believed that road layouts and signage will be made to be ‘deliberately confusing’ to increase the number of PCNs issued.
‘Clearly, the priority for enforcement should be to improve road safety and reduce congestion,’ he explained.
SAVE MONEY ON MOTORING