Moving Traffic Offences: What are our councils’ game-changing new powers?
Since 31 May 2022, local authorities in England outside of London have been able to apply to the Secretary of State for new powers to enforce ‘moving traffic offences’. This means they can be granted powers that have previously been held only by the police and will be able to issue fines to drivers for these offences for the first time.
Greater Manchester Powers
From 22 July 2023, it was announced that the powers have been granted to 6 Greater Manchester Local Authorities (LAs) (Manchester, Oldham, Salford, Rochdale, Trafford, Wigan). Stockport recently agreed to apply, and Bolton has launched a consultation to inform its decision on whether to progress an application. Tameside and Bury have not indicated whether they intend to go ahead.
Each of the 6 LAs with granted powers has agreed an area that the designation covers, with any exclusions noted. The order applies to all areas in the district, unless explicitly excluded.
What Are the Uses and Benefits?
Prior to the change in legislation in England (outside of London), moving traffic offences were enforceable only by the police. The one exception was in London where Transport for London and London Borough Councils already have ‘civil enforcement’ powers. In London, these offences have therefore effectively been decriminalised and are treated as civil ‘contraventions’. However, in local authority areas outside London, many of these offences might not be being enforced in full by the police.
In England and Wales, moving traffic offences are defined in law in Schedule 7 of the Traffic Management Act 2004 (as amended). They include:
- incorrectly driving into a bus lane
- stopping in a yellow box junction
- banned right or left turns
- illegal U-turns
- going the wrong way in a one-way street
- ignoring a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO).
London’s Boroughs have benefitted from the nearly 600 school streets that have now been delivered under TROs. Generally, cameras are used for enforcement, with smaller school streets sometimes still using physical barriers. Examples of how these are being used (including the application of exemptions) are Haringey, Richmond and Lewisham.
Traffic signs subject to moving traffic enforcement are set out in the Traffic Management Act Schedule 7 and include ‘entry to and waiting in a pedestrian and cycle zone restricted’.
Each LA had to follow certain steps when they applied for designation of the moving traffic enforcement powers, based on a number of pre-determined locations. Those steps will need to be followed in respect of any additional enforcement locations in the future. However, it will not be necessary to seek further approval from the Secretary of State for additional enforcement locations in cases where the whole area has already been designated. These steps and guidance are set out in this document.
Penalties and Use of Fines
A penalty charge may only be imposed in respect of a moving traffic contravention based on evidence from a camera and associated recording equipment (an ‘approved device’). Such devices must be approved by the Secretary of State before they can be used for this purpose (see here and here).
The levels of fines that can be imposed are specified in a schedule to the General Provisions SI. They range from £20 for lower level penalties paid promptly, up to £105 for late payment of higher level penalties (such as bus lane contraventions, or parking a vehicle on a cycleway).
For a period of 6 months following implementation of enforcement of moving traffic contraventions, at each particular camera location, local authorities should issue warning notices for first-time moving traffic contraventions. This also applies to any new camera location in the future.
There are also restrictions on how any surplus from fines can be used – but unlike funds raised from speed camera fines, which are transferred to central Government, surplus funds from moving traffic enforcement will be kept by the local authority, and must be used for the following purposes:
- to recoup costs of enforcement;
- pay for public transport provision;
- pay for highway improvement projects; or
- pay for environmental improvements in the authority’s area.