William Eichler 25 October 2017

Councils deny using driving penalties as ‘money spinners’

Councils should avoid using penalty notices as ‘money spinners’, the RAC Foundation warns as research reveals up to 12 million driving licence holders are penalised each year.

A new study published today by the transport policy and research organisation reveals local authorities issue 33,000 penalty notices every day – the equivalent of one every 2.5 seconds.

Of these 12 million notices, which are divided between Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN) and Penalty Charge Notice (PCN), eight million are parking penalties and 2.5 million are bus lane and box junction penalties.

Around one million are speeding and red-light penalties and 500,000 are late licensing and insurance penalties.

The figures are drawn from the report, Automated Road Traffic Enforcement: Regulation, Governance and Use, by Dr Adam Snow, a lecturer in criminology at Liverpool Hope University.

Dr Snow argues the increased amount of penalties being issued is the result of automation - the replacement of frontline policing by cameras.

The latter, he says, are immune to matters of ‘colour, religion, race, gender and so on’, but they cannot provide either discretion or common sense.

‘While wrongdoing should be punished and not excused, a decline in frontline policing risks an imbalanced approach to enforcement,’ Dr Snow said.

‘Millions of motorists are being caught by camera, often for arguably minor misdemeanours, whilst more serious and harmful behaviour goes undetected.

‘When it comes to civil enforcement of bus lane and parking infringements authorities should constantly be asking themselves whether the number of notices issued suggest a different method is needed: some bus lanes and box junctions have become renowned as money spinners.

‘If thousands of drivers a day are getting tickets this is a clear indication of a system that is failing.’

The Local Government Association (LGA) has defended the use of penalties by councils, arguing that money raised is spent on ‘essential transport projects’.

Responding to the RAC Foundation’s report, Cllr Martin Tett, the LGA’s transport spokesman, said: ‘Effective parking control is one of the most frequent and important demands of local residents from their councils.

‘Parking controls are essential to help keep the roads clear, pedestrians, motorists and cyclists safe and to make sure people can park near their homes and local shops.

‘Income raised through on-street parking charges and fines is spent on running parking services and any surplus is only spent on essential transport projects, such as tackling the £12bn roads repair backlog and creating new parking spaces.

‘A clear appeals process is in place for anyone who feels they have been fined unfairly, including the ability to ask for an independent review.’

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