Plans to hike parking fines in London by up to 25 per cent will provide under-fire drivers with yet another reason not to visit the capital, experts warned today.
London Councils, which represents authorities and controls fine limits, is consulting over the increases after saying it fears the current charges are no longer a deterrent.
It will impact motorists who are already paying £15 a day for the Congestion Charge and £12.50 to enter the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (Ulez), which expands next week.
While the levels of the new fines have not yet been confirmed, the consultation by the cross-party group referenced how Transport for London (TfL) increased fines on the roads that it manages by 23 per cent from £130 to £160 in January last year.
There is currently a top fine of up to £130 on roads managed by boroughs in areas denoted ‘Band A’ such as central London and busy high streets; while it is up to £110 in ‘Band B’ areas, normally found in outer London with less parking demand.
In addition, fines could be hiked for driving in bus lanes or box junctions, while other parking fees such as clamping and vehicle removals are also set to be affected.
But motoring groups warned the changes would put people off visiting London as well as other UK cities which are bringing in ever-more stringent rules for motorists.
It comes as Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) are reviewed by the Government after an announcement last month, with hundreds having been imposed since 2020.
London Councils issued this map to show how it currently has a top fine of up to £130 on roads managed by boroughs in areas denoted ‘Band A’ such as central London and busy high streets; while it is up to £110 in ‘Band B’ areas, normally in outer London with less parking demand
Luke Bosdet from The AA told MailOnline today: ‘For years, a growing number of UK cities have shown a readiness to dish out fines for unintentional mistakes by drivers.
‘If your enduring memory of a visit to a town or a city is an unfair bus lane, yellow box, parking or other fine, it is unlikely that you will go back unless you have to.’
‘Discretion went out of the window with camera enforcement and drivers have to plead their case to the councils. If that fails, appealing to the traffic penalties tribunal is the next option and we urge drivers to challenge unfair PCNs (penalty charge notices).
‘On the policy side, the democratic process allows drivers and voters to protest unfair enforcement policies, either via their MPs or at elections, and get change that way.’
Mr Bosdet said The AA previously dealt with the case of a woman from Edinburgh who got three bus lane tickets in Glasgow in just over 20 minutes while she was trying to find somewhere for her disabled sister to get out close to an arts centre.
Although technically correct, the traffic offences tribunal agreed the council had gone too far and recommended reducing the fines tally to one. The woman said she would never go back to Glasgow because of how the council treated her as a visitor.
Earlier, Mr Bosdet also told the Daily Telegraph: ‘There seems to be a never-ending trail of London councils and TfL finding means to get money out of motorists, whether it’s parking permits, parking charges or other driving charges.
London Councils is consulting on plans to hike parking fines in London by up to 25 per cent
‘The punishment doesn’t match the offence, particularly when adjudicators often judge in favour of motorists, or decide that it was trivial infringement.’
He also claimed that previous analysis by TfL during its consultation found 60 per cent of the drivers issued with penalty charge notices were first time offenders, and that repeat offenders would not be put off by the fines increasing.
Also hitting out at the plans was Simon Williams, the RAC’s head of policy, who said there was ‘no justification whatsoever for putting up these fines, especially in a cost of living crisis’.
He told BBC News: ‘It’s bizarre that we’re now getting to the stage where a driver can be fined almost as much for an innocent mistake as they are for dangerously driving using a handheld mobile phone.
‘There’s surely only one reason why any council would need penalty charge levels to rise to keep up with inflation – and that’s if they rely on the income they receive from drivers breaking the rules.’
And Nicholas Lyes, director of policy for road safety charity IAM RoadSmart, told MailOnline: ‘It’s starting to feel like London’s drivers and motorcyclists are becoming cash cows.
‘Moreover, we know that some box junctions and bus lanes are not fit for purpose with poor signage and road layout, and worse still in the case of box junctions, the painted boundaries can be hidden by buildings and street furniture.
‘It’s time to stop finding ways of hitting hard-pressed drivers in their pockets.’
Meanwhile Nickie Aiken, Conservative MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, told the Evening Standard: ‘It’s unfortunate that they think it’s the time to increase fines in a cost-of-living crisis.
‘I would like to see councils working together to go after prolific driving offenders rather than catching people making a genuine mistake.’
Social media users also blasted the plans, with one saying on X: ‘This won’t be just London – it will sweep across the country as councils weaponise the car.’
Another added: ‘It’s time drivers remembered they are also voters. Enough is enough.’
And a third said: ‘Labour will see their votes slide in London if they continue with their continuing persecution of the capital’s motorists.’
London Councils claims parking, bus lane and moving traffic penalty charges have not been reviewed since 2010 and many of the charges have not changed since 2007.
Its consultation also says: ‘The number of people receiving penalty charges has increased by 50 per cent over the last 12 years and we are concerned that the current penalty levels are not set high enough to act as a deterrent.
‘The impact of inflation on penalty levels has meant that there has been a reduction in the real value of penalty charges over time.’
And Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville, who is the London Councils executive member for climate change, transport and environment, said: ‘London boroughs are committed to making our roads safe and accessible for everyone.
‘By effectively managing parking and traffic we can incentivise people to drive and park safely, protect access, crossing and junctions, and increase active travel such as walking, cycling and rented e-scooter use. We can also improve bus prioritisation, reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality.
The expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) is due to come into force on August 29
London Mayor Sadiq Khan (pictured in Edgware on August 4) is overseeing the Ulez extension
‘Today’s consultation is a crucial part of the transport and environment committee’s decision-making process on penalty charge levels and additional fees, and anyone who uses London’s roads can have their say on the new proposals.
‘We are dedicated to ensuring the plans don’t negatively impact lower income and more vulnerable people and welcome all input into this consultation.’
It comes amid ongoing controversy about the so-called ‘war on motorists’ which opponents of London Mayor Sadiq Khan claim he is carrying out.
The expansion of Ulez from August 29 will see the scheme cover all London boroughs and will force drivers of non-compliant vehicles to pay £12.50 a day.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has even blamed the policy for his party’s recent by-election loss in Uxbridge, which will now be included in the scheme.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has urged Mr Khan to ‘think twice’ about the Ulez expansion, while Sir Keir suggested cities should look at other options for tackling air pollution.
Mr Khan has previously admitted his decision to expand the Ulez was ‘very difficult’ but insisted it would ‘see five million more Londoners being able to breathe cleaner air’.
Meanwhile it also emerged last week that drivers will soon have to pay a toll to use the Blackwall Tunnel over the River Thames.
And drivers may also end up paying a £3 toll to cross Hammersmith Bridge if it reopens to cars.