They will also have the right to impose fines of £60 on drivers of vehicles whose emissions exceed prescribed pollution levels.
The Government is planning to give local authorities greater powers to enforce statutory offences that deal with vehicle pollution in a bid to improve urban air quality. The powers will apply to 60 authorities responsible for air quality management areas (AQMA).
Last week Government whip Lord McIntosh of Haringey told the House of Lords: 'The powers will enable all local authorities in England to take action against drivers who leave their vehicle engines running unnecessarily when parked. The few drivers who refuse requests to switch off their engines may face a £20 penalty.'
The Government also wants to see local authorities tackle vehicles whose emissions exceed acceptable pollution levels while on the move. The National Audit Office estimates that 20% of vehicles on Britain's roads are polluting illegally and the Government believes few vehicle owners pay attention to their vehicles' emissions until MoTs are due.
'We hope that knowing they could receive a £60 penalty for failing a roadside test will encourage more drivers to take proper care of their vehicles,' said McIntosh.
However, local authorities will not have the power to stop vehicles and will have to work in conjunction with the police to do so.
Councils in Birmingham, Bristol, Canterbury, Glasgow, Middlesbrough, Swansea and Westminster have trialled the scheme.