|London, 2 Dec 1999.
For immediate release.
'Road User Charging' opens the way for councils to tax drivers not just for driving their cars, but also for keeping their cars on the road. Council workers would be able to police the new mobility taxes and have the power to enter and search vehicles on demand to check for the permits or electronic tags needed to enforce the tax. Tampering with permits or refusing to pay could see drivers facing a six-month prison sentence.
Under catch-all rules, the 'Workplace Parking Levy' will allow local authorities to impose a tax on parking spaces at offices, shops, sports centres and factories. The bill's definition is so broad it allows the tax to be slapped on anyone who is an employee, agency, business customer or business visitor.
Local Authority staff would be given powers to enter premises and count the number of cars parked to ensure that maximum revenue is being raised.
Prescott plans to divert the revenue raised into improved bus services, but the Association of British Drivers believes the new taxes will do little to ease congestion and will simply increase the tax burden on motorists. Roads and Traffic Spokesman Mark McArthur-Christie: 'These new taxes are really elitist mobility taxes. The rich can afford to pay and so can keep their cars, but the less well-off will suffer'.
Commentators have estimated that the workplace parking tax could cost between £1,000 and £3,000 a year and would be levied even if employees had no access to a bus service. The impact of workplace parking tax on businesses could cost UK's 2 million companies as much as £20 billion*, severely damaging their competitiveness. Companies could soon be choosing where to set up new plant and offices on the basis of workplace parking charges. McArthur-Christie comments 'There will be no compulsion for local authorities to make sure bus services serve all areas. Most drivers and businesses will simply end up paying more tax and see no benefits, so companies will simply choose to set up shop elsewhere'.
Brian Gregory, the ABD's Chairman, today called on the Government to re-think their plans for the new taxes: 'Even the best bus services cannot offer people the flexibility they need for their jobs and family lives today. People need their cars and the Government needs to recognise that the car must be at the heart of the Integrated Transport Policy.'
* 2 million companies registered at Companies House, average of 10 spaces per company, £1,000 pa charge