UK councils are making more than £100 million a year in fines generated by number plate-reading cameras.
Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) systems are used widely around the UK to enforce a variety of traffic regulations and new figures have revealed just how much money local authorities are making from resultant fines.
According to a study by Auto Express, of the 114 UK councils which responded to a Freedom of Information request and who use ANPR systems, 65 said they did so to issue penalties to motorists.
The cameras operate separately from speed cameras and among the offences the cameras are used to detect are drivers using bus lanes, stopping in yellow boxes and ignoring no left or right turn instructions at junctions.
More than 1m offenders a year
According to the data obtained by Auto Express, 6.96m penalties were issued by ANPR systems in the five years between 2014 and 2018, amounting to around £472m in total. Fines range from £40 to £130 depending on the council area and the offence.
The London Borough of Barnet coined in the most, with 547,393 fines bringing in an estimated £38.3m over the period.
Second in the table, Glasgow made £33.9m but actually issued more fines – at 566,598.
Four more London boroughs – Barking and Dagenham, Brent, Kingston upon Thames and the City of London were also among the top earning council areas, along with Leeds, Essex and Coventry.
10bn checks a year by police
The Auto Express study also looked at the use of ANPR technology by police forces across the country.
Between them, the 31 forces that supplied data have a network of 6,094 cameras that carried out 10.1 billion number plate scans in 2018 alone. Of those, 201m were classed as “vehicles of interest”.
Police cross-check number plates caught on the cameras against registration, insurance and tax databases to spot cars being driven illegally.
West Midlands had the most active cameras, with 896,785,269 scans throwing up almost 24m vehicles of interest. Some way behind it, Thames Valley scanned 780m vehicles with 14.3m ‘hits’ while Cheshire’s 773m scans spotted 20.7m vehicles “of interest” and South Yorkshire’s 726m scans returned only 186,729.
No apology for enforcing the law
Representatives for the police and councils insisted the cameras were there to help enforce the law and make the roads safer.
The Local Government Association said councils “make no apologies for enforcing the law” which the National Police Chiefs’ Council said police only get involved if there is a criminal issue arising from an automated check.