Stoke-on-Trent City Council to allow traffic wardens to fine drivers for 'simple mistakes'
TRAFFIC wardens could be handed police-style powers to fine motorists for offences such as straying into cycle lanes.
Ministers are considering plans to hand council-employed wardens the authority to issue fines to drivers who make illegal turns, stray into yellow boxes or drive in bus and cycle lanes.
And Stoke-on-Trent City Council has confirmed it will look to adopt the powers if the Government gives the green light to the changes.
The authority's wardens already issue fines for illegal parking and use an £80,000 spy car to catch out drivers entering city centre bus lanes.
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But enforcement officers on foot patrol could soon have the power to fine motorists even for "simple mistakes" – such as driving into cycle boxes at traffic lights or ignoring no entry signs.
The Local Government Association, representing England's councils, is lobbying the Government for the changes on safety grounds.
But motorists fear the hard-up council would view beefed-up powers as a cash generator, with income from city centre car parks continuing to fall.
Business owner Nigel Foster, aged 46, from Meir Park, said it would be another reason not to drive into the city centre.
"You pay through the nose for parking as it is and get a ticket as soon as you go over your limit," he said.
"There's too much scope for this to turn into another way of milking drivers. I'd be totally against it."
Steven Pritchard, chairman of the Portland Street and Cobridge Residents' Association, said: "My concern would be that traffic wardens are not police.
"Delegating extra powers to them to issue extra-judicial fines is uncomfortable from a civil liberties perspective. It has wider implications.
"If people are going to be fined for going into these areas, then they should collect the evidence rather than actually be able to issue the fines."
The AA raised concerns that councils could make more use of cameras to snare motorists if their powers are extended.
Spokesman Paul Watters said: 'This will alienate those drivers who make a simple mistake.
"The risk is the cameras will click away automatically where there is a traffic management problem, such as at a badly-designed junction."
Hardial Bhogal, Stoke-on-Trent City Council's director of city renewal, said: "We would consider adopting these powers to complement our other traffic management duties – if we were allowed, and if there were issues where public safety was at risk."
Roads minister Mike Penning said: "We are sympathetic to this idea. There would be no new offences. We would simply give enforcement powers to local councils as well as the police."