A council declared bankrupt a year ago fears it will lose millions of pounds if motorists “wise up” about where they will be fined when driving in low traffic neighbourhoods.
Croydon Council expects to make £11.8 million over the next three years from fixed penalty notice fines issued by automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras catching those driving through roads recently closed to traffic.
The South London borough has been awarded £975,000 to create seven low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) after Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, introduced his “green transport revolution” last May to promote walking and cycling.
However, opponents say the schemes are being used as a “cash cow”.
'Risk of compliance'
At a recent council meeting, Steve Iles, Croydon’s director of public realm, said £11.8 million of “income growth particularly from camera enforcement” had been “built in” to its three-year budget forecast.
But Councillor Robert Canning expressed concern that the cash injection could be lost if motorists obey the rules.
He said: "Is there a risk that motorists will start complying with restrictions that apply, so the revenue that we are predicting for the next three years won't actually be obtained because motorists wise up to the restrictions and start complying? Is that something we need to worry about?"
Mr Iles conceded that “there is a risk of compliance”, but said civil servants had “factored” the “significant hike” in fines into their budget projections.
“It’s expected that people will not comply straight away, despite all of the associated signs,” he added.
He insisted the “ambition” was for motorists to obey the new road closures, but the extra income would help pay for the concessionary public transport fare scheme given to pensioners.
Row over use of ANPR cameras
A slide shown to councillors explained how funding from the Department of Transport and Transport for London to pay for new ANPR cameras “remains uncertain”.
Those organisations could “put into jeopardy any future funding and the council will incur costs of removing the schemes” if they had to be abandoned, it said.
It added that “public acceptance” of road closures “will be very low” but that “over time residents will see the benefits of the schemes”.
The slide concluded: “During the transition phase, there may be calls to remove the schemes or reduce the restrictions.”
The council currently has just a single £25,000 ANPR camera operating in one LTN.
Ahali Nihalani, of Parsons Mead Action Group - a collection of residents fighting one Croydon LTN and helping motorists who have been repeatedly fined by the council - said: “The LTN is simply a guise for generating income.
"After the mismanagement of the council which led to it being declared bankrupt last year, they are now unashamedly trying to recoup the income from the very people they have let down - their residents.
“It would seem Croydon Council’s goal is to generate income by whatever means. If that income generation can be dressed up as an LTN, all the better.”
A spokeswoman for Croydon Council said: “The purpose of our healthy neighbourhoods is foremost to address concerns related to the climate crisis and active lifestyles.
“Enabling walking and cycling is a key priority for the council, and a major goal of Transport for London and the Department for Transport when providing funding for these schemes.
“Any surplus income from penalty charge notices in relation to these schemes goes towards transport and environmental initiatives, including the Freedom Pass for the over-65s and those with disabilities.”
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