Fleet News

Congestion charge evasion causes diplomatic troubles

While fleets are facing congestion charges in London and soon in Manchester, there are some drivers in the capital who owe literally millions of pounds in congestion charge penalties and parking fines.

According to figures just released, foreign diplomats owe nearly £10m in outstanding congestion charge and parking fines.

There are currently over 175,000 fines for non-payment of the London congestion charge still unpaid by foreign embassies.

The USA owes the most (£2.3m), with Japan, Russia, Germany and Nigeria all owing more than £1m each.

"It is outrageous that the USA and some other nations are still failing to pay the congestion charge,” said Liberal Democrat shadow transport secretary Norman Baker.

"This is a perfectly proper charge and the failure to pay such a huge amount is not only extremely discourteous to the people of London and the country as a whole, but is undermining UK domestic transport policy.”

Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) was trying to recoup the money but was making little progress.

To try to recover the money owed for parking fines, the FCO wrote to the offenders, giving them the opportunity to either pay their outstanding fines or appeal against them.

It managed to recover just £27,300, which means there remains a total of £538,745 in unpaid parking fines for 2007.

A spokeswoman for the FCO said: "Where necessary, we will draw the attention of heads of mission to particular persistent offenders, warning of possible further action.”

But it is not just the congestion charge and parking fines that foreign diplomats feel they can ignore.

According to the FCO, last year a Russian diplomat was caught for dangerous driving, a Ghanaian for driving without insurance, a Malawian for driving without insurance and drink driving and 13 others for drink driving, including the Kazakhstan diplomat.

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