Motoring taxes ‘tarnished eco image’

Author: By Peter Woodman, Press Association

The Government has been inconsistent in the way it has justified motoring
taxes, added the report from the House of Commons Transport Committee.

Road users remained “an important source of revenue” but needed to
be treated “fairly and with openness”, the MPs said.

The committee’s chairman, Louise Ellman (Labour, Liverpool Riverside), said: “The
Government handled a phased set of increases to Vehicle Excise Duty (car
tax) so badly they tarnished the image of environmental taxes.”

The report said: “The Government has been inconsistent in the way that it
has justified motoring taxes. Fuel duty has been presented, at different
times, as a tool to reduce carbon emissions, a source of general revenue,
and a means to fund transport investment.

“We are concerned that motorists are mistrustful of the Government
regarding taxes. The Government needs to improve the consistency and
transparency in the way it justifies taxes on road users.”

The committee went on: “Major issues remain to be resolved in relation to
taxes and charges on road users.

“Road users are, and will remain, an important source of revenue for
Government expenditure, beyond that spent on the road network. If their
trust in the taxation system is to endure, they must be treated fairly and
with openness.”

The committee said:

* Penalty charge notice parking tickets must not used as a means of simply
raising revenue;

* There is insufficient linkage between the Treasury’s road user tax policy
and the Department for Transport’s policy on transport;

* There should be greater investment in transport, including the road network;

* The whole process of vehicle excise duty (VED) changes was “handled
badly” although the moderated and phased increases now introduced were
to be welcomed;

* It is worrying that the London Congestion Charge scheme running costs still
remain high, consuming almost half the revenue generated;

* If congestion charges go ahead elsewhere, less expensive ways of
administering them must be found;

* Voluntary road pricing schemes – Government-run or commercial – may offer a
way forward and could include VED or fuel duty being traded for per-mile
charges;

* Given the lack of progress with local congestion charging schemes, it is
important that the potential benefits of workplace parking levy schemes are
properly considered.

Mrs Ellman said: “We believe taxation based on car usage – through fuel
duty – remains fairer than any approach based on car ownership and does more
to encourage fuel efficiency or reduce CO2 emissions.

“We recognise that economic factors will limit how much revenue can be
raised by this method. We call on the Government to develop other measures
to address the problem of congestion.”

She went on: “Stronger linkage between Treasury policy and Transport
Ministry policy is essential if the Government is to send clearer signals to
UK motorists about congestion and carbon emissions while encouraging
walking, cycling and greater use of public transport.

“Effective reform will, however, elude any Government until the public is
given explicit and comprehensive information detailing how much money is
raised through this route and how it is used.”

RAC Foundation director Professor Stephen Glaister said: “While the
solutions might be complex, the problem, as the committee has recognised, is
simple – too many vehicles on too little road space and no clear explanation
to drivers of exactly what they get in return for the £45 billion or so they
contribute to the Exchequer each year.”

AA president Edmund King said: “The message is clear to the Government
and indeed all political parties that the motoring public has lost trust in
them when it comes to motoring issues.

“An AA/Populus poll shows that 75 per cent of drivers don’t think any of
the political parties are ‘motorist friendly’. In the run up to the general
election all political parties need to lay out their stall to show how they
will help the 32 million UK drivers.”

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