Transport Committee Contents

7Devolution of powers

92.At present, some offences are decriminalised to allow for civil enforcement by local authorities. These powers are generally provided by the Traffic Management Act 2004 (the TMA). Part 6 of the TMA covers parking, bus lane contraventions, the London lorry ban and ‘moving traffic’ contraventions. Under Part 6 local authorities can apply for powers to take on further enforcement themselves, rather than relying on the police. The parking provisions are already in force in virtually all areas of England and Wales; the provisions related to bus lanes have also been widely taken up.

93.The provisions relating to moving traffic offences in the TMA have not been activated. These would grant local authorities powers to enforce—and issue penalty charges for—offences such as disregarding one-way systems, failing to give priority to oncoming traffic, or disregarding box junction markings. A report of the Transport Committee in 2011 recommended that Part 6 of the TMA be brought into force “by 2013”.143 The current Government’s failure to commence these powers is at odds with the position it gave in the December 2015 road safety statement, which asserts that “Devolution remains central to the government’s agenda. We support local decision making and think that local authorities are best placed to decide what safety measures are needed in their local areas”.144 It is possible that these powers could make up part of the “City Deals” being offered across the UK.

94.The decriminalisation of parking offences has resulted in a reduction in police workload. This is illustrated by the dramatic fall in police-issued Fixed Penalty Notices for obstruction, waiting or parking offences: in 2001, 1.3 million FPNs were issued by police for these offences; this fell rapidly after the TMA Act was passed and, as more local authorities took on parking enforcement responsibilities, it fell further to 46,000 FPNs issued for these offences in 2014.145

95.Successive Governments have been unwilling to commence the full provisions in Part 6. In 2010, the then Labour Government said that “we would still like to see what further evidence there is from individual local authorities”,146 whilst the Coalition Government’s 2012 position was that there was not “sufficient appetite from councils and motorists”.147 In 2013, the Coalition Government claimed to be “reviewing the case for implementation outside London but no decision has been taken yet on whether or not to proceed.”148 More recently, the position of the current Government has become more solidly opposed to the provisions than its predecessors. Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, confirmed in a written answer on 16 December 2015 that the Government had “no plans”149 to commence the full powers of Part 6. The Department for Transport’s written evidence said that it had “devolved to the right level”.150

96.Both London Councils151 and the Mayor of London152 expressed support for London’s current arrangement where it has all of these powers already granted under separate legislation, but argued that the Government should allow local authorities across London to enforce mandatory cycle lanes and enforce against vehicles crossing advanced stop lines at cycle box junctions. The Local Government Association called for all powers allowed under the TMA to be put into place nationally, stating “the police have largely ceased to enforce moving traffic offences in the wake of the TMA’s passing.”153 Transport for Greater Manchester argued strongly for the commencement of Part 6, stating that the case for the enactment of Part 6 of the TMA within Greater Manchester had been “strengthened significantly following the establishment of the Key Route Network (KRN)”, Manchester’s equivalent of the TfL red route network in London.154

97.The RAC was “generally supportive” of local devolution because of the value of local knowledge, but expressed concern that more devolution of powers to local authorities would lead the inconsistent application of road traffic law.155 The DVSA TUS and Unite expressed similar concern. Some respondents answering as individuals or as small-scale campaigners were also opposed to devolution to local authorities, primarily because of concerns about inconsistency or profiteering.

98.Andrew Jones told the Committee that he had only heard support for devolving moving traffic enforcement powers from the LGA, and that “not all councils are members of it”.156 Almost all English councils are members of the LGA with the exceptions of Sheffield City council and the London Boroughs of Bromley and Wandsworth.

99.Granting local authorities the power to enforce against moving traffic offences makes sense. It allows enforcement to take place even where roads police numbers are in decline and it provides valuable local accountability. We see little evidence to support the Department’s position that there is little support for this and find it difficult to understand the Minister’s unwillingness to consider it. We repeat the previous Transport Committee’s recommendation that Part 6 of the Traffic Management Act 2004 be commenced, and also recommend that the Government consider the case for allowing additional moving traffic offences to be subject to civil enforcement in London.

143 House of Commons Transport Committee, Out of the jam: reducing congestion on our roads, Ninth Report of Session 2010–12, HC 872, paragraph 16

144 Department for Transport, Road safety statement: working together to build a safer road system, Cm 9175, December 2015, p 11

146 HL Deb, 6 April 2010, col 420WA

147 HC Deb, 17 January 2012, col 641W

148 HL Deb 7 Feb 2013, col 90WA

149 PQ HL4139 [on road traffic offences], 16 December 2015

150 Department for Transport (RTL0040)

151 London Councils (RTL0054)

152 Greater London Authority (RTL0056)

153 Local Government Association (RTL0029)

154 Transport for Greater Manchester (RTL0073)

155 RAC (RTL0005)

156 Q290 [Andrew Jones]

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Prepared 11 March 2016