Wigan Council is dishing out thousands of charges to residents for motoring offences – and the number is rising.
New figures collected under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act showed there were 15,063 penalty charge notices (PCNs) issued in the borough in 2018, a rise from the 14,704 handed out in 2017.
Motoring offences are also a significant source of cash for the local authority, although intriguingly the amount collected is falling at the same time as more PCNs are being issued.
Drivers falling foul of the rules enriched town hall coffers by £370,010 in 2018, slightly down on the £399,030 raked in the previous year.
PCNs are given out for errors of judgement such as illegally parking .However, Wigan Council chief Paul Barton has robustly defended the use of PCNs, saying it prevents dangerous issues developing on the highway, and said any money raised from fines is ploughed back into the borough.
Motoring organisations have questioned how many PCNs some town halls hand out, with polls suggesting many people think councils are too heavy-handed and stats showing a good number of PCNs are later overturned if they are queried or appealed.
Paul Barton, Wigan Council sirector of environment, said: “Any income generated is reinvested in local services and goes towards the cost of maintaining the local road network, road safety and highway improvements and essential transport projects and initiatives such as free weekend parking in Wigan and Leigh town centres.
“Having sufficient parking provision contributes to our ongoing economic development and ensures we fully support our town centres and local businesses.
“Parking enforcement is used where appropriate to deter motorists from parking indiscriminately and often in locations where they compromise public and highway safety or cause obstruction.
“It can be a necessary deterrent to anyone who chooses to ignore community and safety concerns.”
Data obtained by insurance company Confused.com revealed the scale of drivers being accused of flouting the rules, with more than nine million PCNs handed out in 2018 bringing in an extraordinary £326m in fines.
However, research also suggests 74 per cent of those drivers who did argue their case received a lower fine or escaped paying anything at all.
The Wigan Observer has previously revealed that drivers in the borough too have their fines waived, with 624 of the 2,112 PCNs handed out in 2017-18 for parking in residential or shared-use zones incorrectly subsequently being quashed.
Parking is the biggest source of PCNs nationally, with 51 per cent of fines being dished out for offences related to leaving vehicles incorrectly.
Just over a fifth were for driving in bus lanes illegally, while stopping in box junctions accounted for 11 per cent, turning right at a junction where this is forbidden five per cent and other offences 12 per cent.
Confused.com, which commissioned the research, now wants more people to be aware of their rights to contest PCNs as only 40 per cent of those given a fine did choose to question it.
Unclear or confusing signage was the most common reasons drivers gave for refuting a PCN, accounting for 29 per cent of challenges to being penalised.