Motorists could face a heavy increase in parking fines if local authorities receive permission from the Department for Transport to raise their rates.

Several councils are lobbying the government to gain the right to almost double the maximum penalty charge from £70 to £120.

That figure is already the upper limit faced by drivers in the capital, but outside of London local authorities are restricted to a £70 fee if an early payment of £35 is not met.

The councils argue that this is not enough of a deterrent, but critics have been quick to dismiss the scheme as a rather transparent attempt to increase revenue in the face of severe funding cuts.

The British Parking Association, which represents both the authorities and car park operators, insists that the cost of all day parking in some cities is not much less than the minimum fine, making a penalty notice all but redundant.

The BPA used Cambridge as an example of this situation – it can cost as much as £23 to park while a ticket is £25 – but the AA dismissed the city as an anomaly, and claimed there were few places outside London which cost over £20 a day to park.

A spokesman for the motoring organisation also described the proposed increase in fines as a 'clear breach' of the government's rules. "The guidelines state that local authorities should not view civil parking enforcement as a way of raising revenue," he said.

Transport minister Norman Baker, who only last month told parking officials to stop treating drivers like cash cows, said: 'I think motorists will worry that this is perhaps a covert attempt to raise money from them unfairly. That's not the Department for Transport's objective in any way, shape or form."

According to the Daily Telegraph, the number of parking tickets issued has jumped by up to 700 per cent in some places since local councils took over responsibility for the job from the police.

Last year the penalty system generated £330m in fines nationwide.