Councils across England will be able to fine drivers £70 for a variety of minor traffic offences from later this year.
The Department for Transport has confirmed that from December, local authorities will be able to apply for new powers that will let them issue fines for “moving traffic offences”.
These offences include blocking box junctions, driving in cycle lanes and ignoring no-entry signs and are currently enforced by the police.
The new powers will allow councils to issue penalties for offences such as ignoring no entry or one-way signs
Currently, only councils in London and Cardiff have these powers but other authorities have been calling for years to be allowed to enforce the rules rather than relying on overstretched police forces.
Speaking at a road and traffic industry event last week, 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.”
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The announcement has raised fears that some councils will use the powers as money-making measures rather than to address real trouble spots.
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.
RAC spokesman Simon Williams said: “It’s right that councils outside London can 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.
“While the Government has pledged to give councils advice on how best to let drivers know enforcement is taking place, what’s 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 its 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.”
Williams said that councils would have to monitor and review roads where a large number of fines were issued to ensure the layout and design were not to blame for offences.
He added: “More broadly, there’s a good argument for authorities to issue warning letters in the first instance rather than fines. 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.”