New government transport plans could see council miss out on income

A measure announced in the government’s ‘plan for drivers’ last week could see hundreds of thousands of pounds removed from Swindon Borough Council’s roads and transport budget.

As part of a series of law changes that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he would bring in, the government will look at preventing local authorities from making more money from issuing parking tickets and fines for motorists entering bus lanes, and similar areas, reports the Swindon Advertiser.

The proposals issued by the Department for Transport say the government will “take the profit out of traffic enforcement” and “call for evidence on options to restrict local authorities’ ability to generate surpluses from traffic offences and over-zealous use of traffic enforcement powers”.

It adds: “Some drivers are concerned that local authorities use Penalty Charge Notices far too liberally, not to make our roads safer and easier to navigate, but simply to raise revenue. As a result, drivers feel unfairly penalised for using their car in their local area.”

Swindon Borough Council made a total surplus – the local government equivalent of a profit – of £2.637m for 2022-23, said the Swindon Advertiser report.

But it invested all of this money back into the borough’s roads and transport, a spokesperson said, on things like “public passenger transport services, highway improvement, maintenance and other environmental improvements,” said the report.

In the authority’s 2023-24 budget, it expects to receive £879,000 from enforcement notices issued on bus lane infractions, and slightly more than £800,000 from parking fines issued for on-street parking, along with another £238,000 from fines issued for using car parks without a ticket or overstaying on the ticket.

The borough council’s cabinet member for the environment and transport, Labour Councillor Chris Watts said: “Like most local authorities, Swindon Borough Council is in a critical financial position, largely due to central government cuts over the last 10 years, arguably depriving the borough of £60,000,000 a year, coupled with the catastrophic failure of the in-year budget that was set last year.

“While I am content that monies raised from parking fines are used to enhance public passenger transport services, highway improvement, maintenance and other environmental improvements, councils should not be put in the position as to rely on such an income stream in order to supplement central government underfunding, no matter how desperate the inherited budget situation may be.

“We are unaware of the detail of current plans outlined by the Prime Minister and await more information but would rather he focus on closing the inherent funding gap in local government that has devastated so many front-line services.”


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