Traffic wardens are civilian employees of police authorities, but act under the direction of chief officers of police. Section 95 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 makes provision for them to discharge duties, including law enforcement, normally undertaken by the police in connection with the control and regulation of traffic and stationary vehicles. These functions relate to the control and regulation of, and enforcement of the law relating to, traffic, including pedestrians and stationery vehicles. Traffic wardens can also require vehicles to stop for specific purposes. The powers conferred on traffic wardens and the duties they may undertake are prescribed very precisely by the Home Secretary in the Functions of Traffic Wardens Order 1970, as amended.
Part 1 of the Traffic Management Bill empowers the Secretary of State for Transport as the traffic authority for trunk roads in England, and the National Assembly for Wales as the traffic authority for trunk roads in Wales, to establish a uniformed on-road traffic officer service to manage the traffic consequences of random incidents such as breakdowns, obstructions, debris and accidents.
The Bill enables traffic officers to carry out certain traffic management functions currently carried out on trunk roads by the police in order to deal with incidents and keep traffic moving. Specifically the Bill would provide traffic officers with powers to stop and direct traffic and to place and operate traffic signs. These powers are similar to those of the police and may only be exercised in order to:
assist the movement of traffic; prevent or reduce congestion; avoid danger to persons or traffic; or prevent damage to anything on or near the road.
The traffic officer service will comprise uniformed officials patrolling motorways and trunk roads in England around the clock. They will be appointed by the Highways Agency directly, although the Bill allows flexibility for the service to be contracted out should it ever be decided that this is in the public interest.
Responsibilities for community wardens vary according to local priorities. Wardens and warden schemes do however need to fulfil the four broad categories of environmental improvements, community safety and crime prevention, community development and housing regeneration. They provide a link between local residents and key agencies such as local authorities and the police. And they encourage neighbourhoods to develop innovative ways to tackle their environmental problems and the behaviours that create an atmosphere of neglect and encourage crime.