Ross Clark has written a great piece for the Telegraph urging the Prime Minister to over-rule the crackpot schemes of local politicians to impose more taxes on motorists, such as Sadiq Khan’s planned extension of London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone. He thinks it would be popular and might even revive the Conservative’s flagging fortunes.
Four London boroughs, as well as Surrey County Council, have launched a judicial review of the Ulez extension, alleging that Khan deliberately targeted his consultation at younger, non-motorists in an effort to swing the results in his favour – and then ignored evidence that two thirds of respondents were against the scheme. But why should it be left to borough councils to fight it out with Khan? The proliferation of low-emission zones, congestion charges and “15-minute cities” demands that the Government step in and formulate a national policy on what councils can charge for and how they can charge for it.
I wouldn’t object if the Government replaced fuel duty and road tax with a national road pricing scheme, which charged us all a simple, easy-to-understand tariff according to where we had driven – and then billed us in a civilised manner. As electric cars start to eat into income from fuel duty, such a system is probably inevitable.
But what we have is a bunch of councils acting as highwaymen, instigating a patchwork of aggressively enforced charging schemes. London, Bristol and Birmingham all now have low-emission zones, London with a congestion charge on top. Oxford and Canterbury are developing bizarre schemes where you can drive in and out but get hammered if you cross from one mysterious zone to another. Then there are tolls for the Dartford and Mersey bridges. We are supposed to know where these schemes are, what their rules are and how to pay them – even when we are visiting an unfamiliar part of the country. Then we are given no more than 48 hours to pay – or else a fine arrives in the post. It is not safe to drive anywhere in Britain without an encyclopedic knowledge of local government road-charging schemes.
What an excellent idea. Worth reading in full.
Stop Press: There was a protest in Oxford yesterday against the local council’s plan to create 15-minute neighbourhoods that attracted a lively counter-protest, with black-clad demonstrators carrying signs saying, ‘No to racism, no to fascism’ and ‘Don’t let the fascists divide us’.
Stop Press 2: The traffic-calming measures in Canterbury, whereby the city is going to be divided into seven different zones with restricted travel by car between them, is actually the brainchild of a the city council’s Conservative leader Ben Fitter-Harding, with the Labour and Lib Dem councillors opposing them. One Conservative councillor, who dismissed the plan as a “utopian dream”, says he hasn’t met a single resident who’s in favour of it and fears a wipe-out at the next election if Mr. Fitter-Harding presses ahead. The Telegraph has more.