England & Wales Press Releases

Fewer than 1 in 5 councils report making surplus income on traffic enforcement

New research by local government think tank, LGiU, calls for Government to give local authorities greater freedom to deliver on their traffic enforcement duties.

The research, published in partnership with SEA, found that fewer than one in five councils reported making surplus income on traffic enforcement.

The finding challenges recent claims by the Government that authorities are using traffic strategies to raise revenue. [1]

Rather, the report finds that Government interventions are hindering the ability of councils to fulfil their legal duties around traffic regulation and enforcement. DCLG needs to support and embolden local authorities to fulfil these duties through greater freedom, rather than place further limitations on this essential role.

The research argues that local authorities need to push back on the negative public perception of their traffic enforcement role, and proactively make the case for policies that foster safer neighbourhoods, greater mobility, and thriving local economies.

The key findings of the report were:

  • the most significant difficulty local authorities face in enforcing traffic regulations is the public unpopularity of enforcement, with two thirds (66.7%) of respondents stating this is a problem. Respondents expressed frustration with the negative portrayal of local authority traffic enforcement in the media, particularly underlining their frustration with the DCLG’s negative characterisation of enforcement.
  • The survey findings also demonstrate that one of the key difficulties surrounding enforcement is actually catching law-breakers. 41.7% of respondents said that identifying those who break the law is an issue, suggesting that to carry out their traffic management duties effectively, local authorities in fact need to strengthen their ability to identify and reprimand law-breakers.
  • Just over three-quarters (77.3%) of respondents identified schools zones as a key problem.

Commenting on the report, Dr Jonathan Carr-West, Chief Executive of LGiU, said:

“Local Councils are rightly the level of elected government which members of the public can complain to. From bin collections to planning enforcement, councils are responsible for those issues which affect people’s day to day lives and they have a great responsibility to ensure that they meet a local area’s public service needs whilst balancing that with the wider strategic aims of our communities. Our survey shows this balance.

“Parking enforcement will always be one of these emotive issues. No local authority should use their statutory powers to plug gaps in budgets but neither should they neglect their role in assuring good traffic management, safety and good air quality in our towns and cities. What hinders this important function is when central government intervenes in locally decided issues. We would ask that Whitehall back off and allow local government to do what it has an elected mandate to do. ”


Steve Hill, Managing Director of SEA, commented:

“SEA welcomes this balanced and informed study into the attitude and experiences of local authorities toward parking enforcement. Parking has always been an area of controversy and this report goes directly to local authority traffic and parking managers to explain the reality behind much of the rhetoric associated with parking enforcement. In the context of the current Government consultation into local authority parking, its findings merit serious consideration”.




Notes for Editors

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The full report is available here: https://lgiu.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Councils-in-the-driving-seat-Local-authorities-and-traffic-enforcement.pdf


[1] For instance, see the following DCLG press release (August 2013) which states that “We want to rein over-zealous parking enforcement, so it focuses on supporting high streets and motorists, not raising money. Parking spy cars are just 1 example of this and a step too far. Public confidence is strengthened in CCTV if it is used to tackle crime, not to raise money for council coffers.”


The discrepancy of perceptions of council traffic enforcement may in part be accounted for by a difference in what people are measuring: whether they are talking about income in relation to on-street enforcement only, or to the entire cost of managing parking in the area.

The DCLG launched a consultation on 6 December 2013 inviting views on current local authority parking strategies, and specifically on options the Government is considering to change the balance of how parking is enforced.



LGiU ran a survey from November 5th – December 11th 2013 which sought to understand the state of traffic regulation and the key successes and challenges around the issue. We targeted members and officers with responsibility for traffic management, planning, regeneration and the economy. 71 councils are represented. Of these, 31 were District councils, 17 were Unitary authorities, 12 were County councils, 6 were Metropolitan districts and 5 were London boroughs. Two-thirds of respondents were councillors and a third were officers. Conservative-controlled councils are slightly over-represented.


About LGiU

The Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) is a think tank which works to strengthen local democracy and put citizens in control of their own lives, communities and local services. It works with local councils and other public services providers, along with a wider network of public, private and third sector organisations. lgiu.org.


About SEA

SEA, a Cohort PLC company, provides applied research, technology development, systems integration, specialist electronic systems, engineering and software design services to the aerospace, defence, space and transport markets, as well as Government agencies, industrial prime contractors and academia.  Its ROADflow cameras offer flexible solutions to traffic enforcement which are extremely effective for parking, bus lanes/gates, clearways, level crossings, red lights, and various other moving traffic contraventions. SEA employs circa 230 high-calibre staff and has offices in Beckington (Somerset) and Bristol. SEA was founded in 1988 and was acquired by Cohort plc in 2007. To find out more go to: www.sea.co.uk