Councils to get powers from 1 June to fine drivers for minor offences

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Motorists can soon expect to see a rise in the number of fines issued for minor traffic offences, such as stopping in yellow box junctions, illegal turns and driving in cycle lanes.

All councils across England and Wales will be able to apply for powers to issue penalty charge notices for these contraventions from May, Transport Minister Baroness Vere confirmed on Thursday, saying the move will ‘help cut congestion, improve bus services and boost road safety’.

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The first fines will likely be issued from 1 June, once applications have been processed by the Department for Transport. 

Councils to get powers from 1 June to fine drivers for minor offences
© Provided by This Is Money Power shift: Councils in England and Wales will likely begin issuing fines for minor traffic offences, such as unlawfully stopping in box junctions, from 1 June

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In a tweet posted on Thursday evening, Baroness Vere said: ‘From May, local authorities in England will be able to apply for powers to fine those who disobey certain rules of the road, such as stopping unlawfully in box junctions and driving through no entry signs. 

Types of minor traffic offences set to be enforced by councils from 1 June 2022

‘This will help cut congestion, improve bus services and boost road safety.’ 

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Councils will need to apply for these powers ‘which we can grant to them via Designation Orders, which is a form of secondary legislation’  and will only be able to begin enforcement once given the green light by the Department for Transport. 

It means that councils are unlikely to start issuing fines until 1 June at the earliest. 

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. 

Currently, minor moving traffic violations committed outside the English and Welsh capital are enforced by the police.

However, offences often go unpunished as a result of there being fewer officers on our roads.

In London and Cardiff, where authorities already have powers to enforce these contraventions, they raked in a massive £58.2million per annum before the pandemic, based on figures for financial year 2018/19, More than half of cash generated was for fines for unlawfully blocking a box junction. 

The AA is concerned that councils across the UK could bombard motorists with fines for offences committed as a result of poor road layout, signage and upkeep, which it says has been the case in London for years.

“Councils can haul in tens of thousands of pounds in fines at locations they know to be traps ” The AA 

The motoring group wants councils that apply for enforcement powers to first identify potential fine hotspots and suspend enforcement until the causes of hotspots are rectified.

It also said drivers should receive a warning letter for first-time offences.

‘London traffic penalty adjudicators continue to highlight instances of bad road layout, or councils ignoring or simply not understanding the rules of enforcement,’ it said.

‘With most innocent drivers paying up instead of contesting unjustified PCNs, councils can haul in tens of thousands of pounds in fines at locations they know to be traps.’

The RAC has also previously raised concerns about the shift in enforcement, 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.

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. 

Councils to get powers from 1 June to fine drivers for minor offences
© Provided by This Is Money Among the list of minor moving traffic offences councils will be able to enforce includes motorists incorrectly driving in cycle lanes

Moving traffic fines – the toll last year

An survey of 13,449 drivers in December found a significant difference in the number of motorists receiving authority-issued fines for minor traffic offences when driving in London compared to the rest of the UK where they are enforced by police.

In the past 12 months, 7 per cent in the UK received a bus lane fine compared to 11 per cent in the capital.

For stopping in a yellow box junction, 2 per cent received a fine whereas in London it was 12 per cent.

Entering a zone where car access is limited or banned, 3 per cent received a fine, compared to 15 per cent in London. according to responses to the poll.

The research also found that less than half of those who received a fine accepted that they were guilty. However, more than a quarter paid an early – discounted – fine, either because risking the full fine would have landed them in financial trouble or because it was the easiest thing to do.

Among younger drivers, the threat of financial hardship pressured up to 24 per cent of them to pay early.

For those complaining to councils that a fine was unfair, their chance of getting it cancelled was approximately one in three across the UK and one in four in London.

For those who appealed to a traffic tribunal, their chance of success was 50 per cent. 

Edmund King, president at the AA, said: ‘Bus lane fines across the UK have been a source of driver anger and dismay for years, particularly when the same locations churn out thousands of PCNs each year without improving signage or layout.

‘Thousands of fines are a clear indication that not only has the signage and layout of restrictions at those locations been inadequate, often stressed at appeal, but that councils have done little or nothing about it and have been happy just to let the cash keep rolling in.

‘AA research shows that drivers who know they have done nothing wrong baulk at the obstacles put in the way of proving their innocence – the principal one being the fear of having to pay a full fine. 

‘Meanwhile, appeals reveal regular flaws in enforcement that are too often ignored by council enforcers. Why? Because the councils know the majority of drivers will pay up anyway and stuff town hall coffers with easy money.’ 

Councils to get powers from 1 June to fine drivers for minor offences
© Provided by This Is Money 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

London and Cardiff authorities pocketed almost £60m-a-year from minor traffic offences pre-Covid

Before the pandemic, London and Cardiff pocketed around £58.2million a year from drivers who committed moving traffic offences in a year, according to a report published by the RAC. 

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.

Councils to get powers from 1 June to fine drivers for minor offences
© Provided by This Is Money Authorities in London and Cardiff were pocketing over £58million a year for minor moving traffic offences before the pandemic

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 this 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. 

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