The enforcement of moving traffic offences such as stopping in a yellow box junction, making an illegal turn or driving down a ‘no entry’ road generated £58.2m in penalties in 2018-19 for local authorities. This is £11.5m more than the £46.7m generated in 2016-17, according to data collected by the RAC.
The RAC made a Freedom of Information (FoI) request to all local authorities that currently have the power to enforce moving traffic offences in England and Wales – the London boroughs, Transport for London (TfL) and Cardiff Council in Wales.
Currently, local authorities outside of London and Cardiff only have powers to enforce bus lane contraventions. But on 27 July, the Department for Transport confirmed that it plans to extend these enforcement powers to all local authorities in England and Wales.
The national picture
The percentage increase in the number of penalty charge notices (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% rise.
Yellow box junctions are by far the most lucrative, bringing in revenue of £31.4m in 2018/19 compared to £22.3m for ‘no turn’ offences and £4.4m for ‘no entry’ contraventions.
Looking at Cardiff alone, nearly four times as many PCNs were issued in 2018-19 compared to 2016-17 (74,142 compared to 19,080) translating to a £1.8m hike in revenue (£593,160 to £2.4m – 313%).
The most profitable offences for Cardiff are ‘no turns’ yielding £1.4m in contrast to £826,424 for yellow box junctions and £182,782 for ‘no entry’ offences.
Of the London boroughs which provided data to the RAC, a total of 933,263 PCNs were dished out in 2018/19, 27% more than two years ago (733,791). This, however, only translated to a 21% increase in revenues (£46.1m to £55.7m).
Yellow box junctions
Of the authorities which benefitted the most from the enforcement of yellow box junctions, Transport for London topped the table with a revenue of nearly £10m (£9,969,545 – 135,923 PCNs) in 2018/19.
In terms of single councils, Hammersmith & Fulham in west London topped the RAC table with a £3.5m yellow box revenue pot (from 53,576 PCNs) generated from 16 enforced junctions out of 23 in its area – £1.1m.
Next came the east London borough of Redbridge on £2.4m (34,782 PCNs from 14 enforced junctions out of a total of 35).
Merton, in south-west London, was the only other council to generate more than £2m in yellow box penalties. It was third on £2.2m (31,081 PCNs were issued at 27 enforced junctions, but no overall total of junctions available).
In terms of average revenues per enforced junction, the City of Westminster recorded the highest figure, with a single junction generating £333,295 from 4,595 penalty charge notices.
Hammersmith & Fulham had the second largest average on £223,472 (£3.5m from 16 enforced junctions) and Richmond, also in west London, had the second largest average revenue with £156,117.
Transport for London has 399 yellow box junctions, but declined to disclose how many are enforced.
No turn offences
Three authorities topped £2m in revenue from ‘no turn’ offences with Ealing in west London outdoing TfL with a revenue of £2.6m (from 44,612 PCNs) versus £2m (£2,093,651, from 28,978 PCNs). Hackney had the third highest total on £1,888,845.
No entry offences
Harrow in north-west London was top for ‘no entry’ offences with a revenue of £549,785, followed by Southwark on £420,760 and Islington on £357,265.
The RAC’s Nicholas Lyes calls for clear signs and transparent reports
It is plain for all to see that London boroughs, Transport for London and Cardiff Council are 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% thinking local authorities will rush to install cameras to generate additional revenue.
Four in 10 drivers (39%) also believe that road layouts and signage will be made deliberately confusing to increase the number of penalty charge notices (PCNs) issued. Clearly, the priority for enforcement should be to improve road safety and reduce congestion.
The Department for Transport has decided to extend enforcement powers to other local authorities. However, we believe guidance should be issued setting out where enforcement should be targeted and the types of signs that must be used to make drivers aware that enforcement cameras are operating, and for what type of moving traffic offence. It should also make clear the circumstances in which a PCN can be appealed and where mitigating circumstances may apply, such as stopping in a yellow box to allow an emergency services vehicle to go by.
We welcome proposals that first offenders are sent a warning letter before subsequent penalties apply. This is particularly important where changes are made to urban road layouts. What we do not want is this being seen by cash-strapped local authorities as a way to generate revenue. In addition, we would urge local authorities to publish annual reports of moving traffic offence receipts by type and by junction.
We would also encourage them to monitor hot spots where an unusually high proportion of PCNs are issued as this is more than likely a clear indication of a problem with signage or road layout.
Nicholas Lyes is RAC head of roads policy
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