Fleet News

Guest opinion: we're treated with contempt

AS the Chancellor of the Exchequer prepares to announce his latest Budget, Black-i managing director Nick Brown says British motorists already pay enough tax and should not be asked for more this year 'Motoring taxes have become a cash cow for the Government, with Labour now taking almost £41 billion a year from motorists.

While fuel duty remains the 'golden goose' for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, hard-pressed companies, company car drivers and private motorists also face a host of other taxes.

When Labour came to power in 1997, annual vehicle taxation accounted for £33.5 billion of funds going into Government coffers. In 2001 the sum had rocketed to £40.8 billion and when 2002's figures are published later this year the amount is likely to be higher still.

Taxes paid by motorists amount to 11% of the Government's total revenue from tax. But annual spending by the Department for Transport totals £13.7 billion, which includes cash spent on other forms of transport not just roads.

Such pitiful reinvestment levels show total contempt from both central and local government for motorists and the facilities that will ease their lot and make travel by car more pleasurable.

In fact, the contempt is arrogance. An arrogance among civil servants responsible for both transport and planning that motorists will continually cough up the cash whatever barriers to ease of travel are put in their way.

There is a vendetta being waged against both business and private motorists. A vendetta waged in the knowledge that the car equals freedom and no other form of transport can compete.

Therefore, whatever hurdles – financial, congestion, poor parking facilities etc – are put in their way, the uncomplaining British motorist will continue to drive. National and local government needs to establish a greater respect for motorists. Instead of penalising motorists they should realise that people use cars because they offer the greatest amount of freedom to travel.

There are more than 32 million licence holders in the UK and 45% of households have the regular use of at least one car. Our elected representatives should work with planners to make the motorists' lot easier. For example, pedestrian walkways should be constructed as an alternative to traffic lights as an aid to both traffic flow and pedestrian safety and city centres should be ringed with a number of park and ride schemes.

As the Treasury cash pile grows, the motorists' position will become even more dire. For example, major roadworks about to start on the M25 west of London have resulted in commentators joking that journeys should be postponed until construction work is finished in 2006.

Meanwhile, the Government's tax-take from the motorist will be further boosted from April 6 when increases in National Insurance contributions from both employers and employees begin to bite.

It is estimated that employers in respect of NIC on company cars and fuel will contribute an additional £68 million – cars (£50 million) and fuel (£18 million) – into Exchequer coffers.

And, as the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association rightly points out in its 'Government Stealth Warning' campaign, the Government and its agencies are raising revenues from motorists by non-taxation routes and seeking to raise more. These include the NHS charging people injured in road traffic accidents, increases in parking fines and more speed cameras.

In addition, businesses, company car and van drivers, hauliers and private motorists are gearing up to face congestion charges. The Government has conveniently washed its hands of the charging issue in the capital, claiming it is a matter for London Mayor Ken Livingstone. But for business and drivers congestion charging amounts to an additional motoring tax. Meanwhile, annual new car sales last year smashed through the 2.5 million barrier for the first time in history. A fact, I'm sure celebrated by Government ministers. No wonder.

They don't appear to care about the impact traffic congestion is having on businesses and they don't appear to care that, despite rhetoric to the contrary, public transport alternatives are dirty, dilapidated and delayed. But, what they can see is that rising new car sales means a bigger tax-take from motorists.

The Government's 10-year transport plan has been almost forgotten. And why? Because it suits the Government not to have a transport plan and simply fleece business and motorists. In their heart of hearts, ministers realise the alternatives to the car are largely too ghastly to comprehend for the vast majority of drivers.'

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