The vast amount of unpaid motoring fines from foreign vehicle owners could present new UKIP councillors with a tricky dilemma.
Freedom of Information requests by BBC South East in April revealed that three councils in the region were owed more than £500,000 just since 2009 in unpaid fines incurred by foreign registered cars.
A company called Euro Parking Collections (EPC) is being engaged to track them all down.
The amounts involved are outrageous but the stories all missed the flip side: if UK authorities obtain driver records from one country then quid pro quo that country will want UK driver details in return.
As the AA famously said last summer, ‘There is nothing worse than having a penalty notice follow you home from abroad.’
Driver data sharing in the EU is a complicated area, governed by four separate agreements. Not all EU countries are signatories to all of them. France, Germany, Switzerland and The Netherlands for instance are the only countries not to have signed the main Bilateral Agreement on Traffic Fines so they do not give up their citizens’ details. Meanwhile, the UK has signed up.
However, the sharing of driver info is one of the 130 Justice and Home Affairs measures from which the Coalition announced last year it might withdraw. A highly critical House of Lords report on the subject was published last week. The government is yet to make its final proposals.
Cash-strapped councils will naturally look to recover money-owing in this age of austerity, especially the hundreds of thousands of pounds in question here.
But in pushing for the address details of foreign drivers, local politicians lose the moral argument for keeping UK driver records under lock and key.
Might the newly elected UKIP councillors not think giving up this potential revenue a price worth paying?