TfL has named 71 countries each owing around 100,000.
A staggering £76.9 million is owed by foreign diplomats who have refused to pay congestion charges in the capital.
This astounding figure has been revealed by Transport for London (TfL) and names and shames 71 countries which each owe around £100,000 in congestion charges, a figure racked up since the scheme was launched in 2003.
Countries have cited the terms of the Geneva Convention, which state that foreign diplomats do not have to pay tax, but the government and TfL have countered this by accurately stating that the congestion charge is not a tax, but a charge for a service.
Who are the offenders?
The US embassy is apparently the main offender, owing nearly £8 million in congestion charges, followed by the Japanese embassy, with fines totalling £5.6 million and the Russian Federation with fines of £5.1 million. Other culprits include diplomats from Germany, Poland, India, Nigeria, Ghana, Sudan and Kazakhstan, collectively owing £40 million and each of whom rest in the top ten worst offenders.
Why is this an issue?
The Congestion Charge, which brings in around £110million a year, has generated more than £1.2billion in revenue since 2003.
The congestion charge was introduced as a means of reducing congestion back in 2003, with the idea being that fewer drivers would venture into central London in their cars in order to avoid paying the daily charge.
By law, the money made from the charge must be ploughed back into the London transport system. To date, approximately £960 million has been spent on improving the bus network in the capital, £70 million on road safety and £102 million on roads and bridges.
Such debts are seen by the authorities as a problem because they negate the financial balance between use and maintenance which is at the core of the scheme. When one considers the notion that these diplomats get to use London roads on a regular basis, refusing to page the charge undermines the scheme and it is therefore understandable that the TfL and Mayor Boris Johnson have insisted that the debts be paid.
Such is Boris Johnson’s determination to call in the debt that he recently personally asked President Obama to write a cheque to settle the debt, during the president’s diplomatic visit to London.
When asked his thoughts on the effect of the unpaid charges, Steven Jury, Marketing Manager of Motors.co.uk had this to say: “Despite the important nature of the many international delegates visiting London on official business, the congestion charge should be viewed as a custom that should be respected by other countries rather than a needless frivolity that doesn’t apply to their representatives.”
Photo courtesy of Ian Britton, with thanks.
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