Councils in Dorset pocketed almost £1m in penalty charge fines from drivers last year, new figures show.

But research suggests almost a quarter of motorists think most fines are issued unfairly – and many people have gone on to successfully challenge them – while councils are accused of treating drivers as 'cash cows'.

Data obtained from Freedom of information requests to local authorities reveal almost 35,000 tickets were issued to motorists from Weymouth and Portland, West Dorset, Dorset County and Purbeck councils in 2018 – resulting in £960.553 worth of income.

This is up on the 2017 figure when £913,206 was collected from more than 33,500 tickets.

The penalty charge notices (PCN) includes fines for offences such as parking, misusing a bus lane or box junction, or turning right illegally.

A break down of the 2018 income data reveals Weymouth and Portland made £144,251 from issuing more than 6,300 fines (an increase of £20k on the previous year) and West Dorset made £178,031 from issuing more than 7,650 fines (a decrease of £20k on the previous year). The former Dorset County Council was responsible for on-street parking in the county as well as Weymouth Park & Ride and car parks in Purbeck car parks so the FOI data obtained is for both Dorset County and Purbeck. In 2018 they made £641,271 from issuing almost 21,000 fines (up £50k on 2017).

The above authorities were all abolished this year under Local Government Reorganisation with the new Dorset Council formed on April 1 taking over responsibilities for parking.

Councils in Dorset were by no means the worst offenders – Westminster City Council raked in the highest income from PCNs, cashing in more than £16.5 million in 2018 (313,000 fines issued). Other London boroughs and Manchester City Council make up the top five earners.

The total income made from fines around the country reached more than £326 million in 2018 from nine million PCNs according to FOI data obtained by

According to research from the car insurance price comparison site not all drivers think fines are issued fairly. Almost half (48 per cent) of UK drivers have received a PCN and of these, two in five (40 per cent) argued their case, with most (74 per cent) resulting in paying a reduced fine, or nothing at all.

Drivers gave several reasons for refuting their PCN, with 29 per cent blaming unclear or confusing signage for the mishap.

Research also indicates many drivers who received a PCN didn’t challenge the fine, with some put off by confusing information online about how to appeal.

It has resulted in creating a checklist which drivers could use to form the basis of their appeal. The checklist covers parking and moving traffic offences, which could potentially save drivers millions of pounds collectively, if their appeal is successful.

Amanda Stretton, motoring editor at said: “The fact that almost three quarters of PCN appeals were successful last year suggests that some fines are being issued unfairly.

“Challenging an unfair fine can be both complicated and daunting. The appeal process is confusing and needs to be made clearer."

A Dorset Council spokesman said: “We operate an enforcement system primarily to keep the flow of traffic moving around Dorset and to keep road users safe.

“Raising revenue from parking fines is not one of our objectives but any surplus income we get from on-street charges and penalty charge notices (PCNs) is put back into the public purse to help fund transport services and highways and environmental improvements. To maintain transparency, we keep an account of all income and expenditure, which is published in our Annual Reports, available on our website.

“We strongly advise all motorists to check parking signage every time they park on-street or in a public car park.”