I’ll admit something from the outset’ this is a bloody boring subject. But it shouldn’t be. Not for any one who drives, is thinking about driving, or is in any way concerned with how this government uses the serious concerns of environmentalism as a smokescreen to raise indiscriminate and arbitrary amounts of revenue from hard working people. So that covers just about every right thinking person I guess. The subject is ‘road pricing’.
Road pricing, in short, is the government’s plans to charge road users by the distance of their journey and depending on the time of travel or, but more likely AND, to charge drivers to enter into a specified zone – much like the London congestion zone.
The subject of road pricing has blighted every major city throughout the UK but was strongly tipped to be introduced first in Birmingham. The government, presumably with a prudent eye on keeping their seats at the next general election, decided that the subject was so emotive – i.e; hated – that they would pass all the tough decisions to Local Government. Recently Birmingham City Council, along with the seven other West Midland council authorities, resoundingly rejected road pricing completely.
Yet despite the almost wholesale rejection of the road pricing scheme (with I believe the possible exception of the Labour hinterland that is Manchester) today in his first budget Alistair Darling decided that the government would still throw oodles of your cash at a further investigation of road pricing. The report ‘confirms additional funding to help local authorities develop proposals for charging schemes’. Errr…Darling, we don’t need it.
Previous form does not make for optimistic reading for anyone concerned with where their hard earned money is going. In a Freedom of Information request obtained by professional Tax ‘watchdogger’ the Taxpayers Alliance the regional transport agency for the West Midlands, Centro, blew a cool £9 Million looking in to the issue of road pricing alone. That’s NINE MILLION QUID. When this is placed in the context of normal working class families being lumbered with the largest tax burden in modern history then it makes the proposed waste even more scandalous. It’s like proposing funds to research the Millennium Bug again. Or the Sinclair C5 as a viable transport option.
All this is taking place despite reports from the Association of British Drivers that the Congestion scheme in London has reduced neither congestion nor carbon emissions. This is often because the biggest gas guzzlers, such as taxis and coaches and buses, are generally exempt from, or pay, the charge making the ‘environmental’ objectives of the tax a dubious proposition. Indeed the specter of that new fundamentalism ‘environmentalism’ is behind it all and as its adherent’s use the power of nightmares to squeeze more cash out of you it becomes a nice little earner from the government. I’m not saying that environmental issues are not important but when almost half the worlds academics can’t agree you’ll forgive me if I remain a tad cynical.
This budget gave nothing to hard working families across the country. I cant elaborate on this further as, unlike a lot of commentators on the budget, I won’t/can’t play armchair economist. I’ll leave it to the pros to pick the government apart. Lucky enough this government is now so disliked that their number is not few.
Oddly the media reports that drivers were ‘handed a boost’ by deferring a rise in petrol till October. That’s not a boost. It doesn’t matter if you’re going to be shot at dawn or at lunch. It’s still a bum deal.
All this is before we get on to the baleful privacy issues relating to the government knowing your every move when you’re driving. I wonder if Orwell was a fan of the motor car…