Councils are in talks with the government, to get the right to fine motorists for a host of offences, from wandering into bus lanes to stopping in the yellow box at junctions. The government is said to be sympathetic to their arguments, raising concerns that this could be the new cash cow for councils struggling to make ends meet.
So what will happen?
New powersA report in the Daily Mail revealed that around 20 councils are in talks with the Department for Transport - through the Local Government Association. They want the right to be able to fine motorists for a variety of driving offences. These include spot fines for using bus or cycle lanes, making illegal turns, going the wrong way down a one way street, ignoring No Entry signs or stopping in yellow boxes at junctions.
The councils in question include Birmingham, Brighton and Hove, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Plymouth, Reading, Salford, Sheffield and Southampton.
The good newsThere's a good chance that they will win the right, after-all, councils in London have been doing it for the last eight years. The Local Government Association has defended the move, saying that it is a vital step to crack down on inconsiderate motorists who are holding up traffic and endangering the lives of other drivers and cyclists.
The potential disasterHowever, he added: "The problem is that from experience this is dodgy territory for local authorities. They don't do it sensibly, they do it by volume, they don't fix bad junctions, they make no allowances for minor errors, and are seen to be revenue-grabbing."
In London last year these sorts of offences generated 800,000 fines (according to the newspaper). That's revenue of £50 million - coming directly from the pockets of the hard-pressed motorist.
For councils, catching motorists and squeezing cash from them is likely to be more of a priority than it is for police forces (sidetracked by things like crime), which means life is likely to get more expensive for motorists. They are likely to use a combination of CCTV and new traffic wardens to catch motorists
Honest mistakesIt means that an honest mistake, such as turning into the wrong street, or making an error over which lanes you are allowed in at a junction could be swiftly and harshly punished. The AA spokesperson added: "You could argue that someone who lives in a particular area and regularly flouts the rules should be made to adhere to the regulations and fined if they fail. However, it's another matter if someone who is a stranger to a town innocently misses a sign."
The adds that the computer systems ought to make it possible for local authorities to use their discretion. However, they haven't been keen to do so in the past - instead preferring the 'big stick' approach.