Wednesday, October 25, 2006

London's costly parklife

Richmond upon Thames council in London has proposed changing the way it charges for parking permits so that cars with bigger engines cost more. It's the latest illustration of how we will all pay dearly for not fitting in with the green agenda.

The council wants to vary the charges for the permits, which simply allow someone to park in their own street, so that electric cars would be exempt but the permit for the biggest 'gas guzzlers' would be up to £300. Households with two cars would have to pay 50 per cent extra for the second car, so that a two-car household could pay £750 per year for the privilege of parking near their own front door. 'Climate change is the single greatest challenge facing the world today,' said the Liberal Democrat council leader Serge Lourie. 'We can no longer bury our heads in the sand and pretend that it is not happening, or that dealing with it is up to somebody else. (1)'

Whacking yet more taxes on bigger cars is unlikely to make much difference, though. It's already extremely expensive to run a Jag or a Merc – or even a large-engined Ford Mondeo. Apart from the cost of purchasing and maintaining the vehicle, petrol is already punitively taxed – around 63 per cent of the price is taken in fuel duty and value-added tax (2). In fact, the tax is so high that the hike in crude oil prices over the last year or two has made relatively little difference to the price at the pumps, currently around 85 pence per litre.

On top of the petrol taxes, big car owners pay much higher insurance premiums and higher road tax (£210 per year against zero for the most fuel efficient cars). And London mayor, Ken Livingstone, has plans to introduce a differential congestion charge by 2010, with big cars paying £25 per day to drive in central London. Those who own big cars are probably immune to the cost of motoring by now.

From fining those who don't recycle, to proposing increased taxes on cheap flights, the great green revolution – unable to convince us through rational argument that we should change our ways – resorts at every turn to beating us over the head, or stuffing its hand in our pockets, to punish us for our bad behaviour.

(1) 'Gas guzzlers' face parking hike, BBC News, 25 October 2006

(2) UK petrol prices, The Oil Drum, 3 May 2006

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