The Sheriff of Nottingham would approve
THE Government has a long record of hitting motorists in the pocket with penal tax rates and a rather shorter - but fast growing - record of doing the same to businesses. Now it is doing both at once.
THE Government has a long record of hitting motorists in the pocket with penal tax rates and a rather shorter - but fast growing - record of doing the same to businesses.
Now, it has gone one better and come up with a wheeze which will do both simultaneously.
Innocent citizens of Nottingham and the surrounding area who have the audacity to park a car at their place of work in the city will, from 2012, have to pay �250 a year for the privilege.
Alternatively, their employers - who will actually get the bill from the local authority - may choose not to pass on the charge to their employees but pay the sum themselves.
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The plan by Nottingham City Council, which was approved by Transport Minister Sadiq Khan last week, is intended to raise �100 million over the next decade, which would cover around one fifth of the cost of a new tram network which has also been backed by the Government.
And so it jolly well should, given the scale of the charge planned - �250 a year initially and rising to �350 in two years.
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To put this in context, if a parking space at work was to be taxed as a benefit in kind then, by my reckoning, an annual tax bill of �350 would be equivalent to the space being valued at more than �33 a week.
I don' t know how expensive parking is in Nottingham, but in Ipswich it is possible to park for about half that sum - or even less if you know where to look.
Despite, or arguably because of, the excessive level of charge involved, it seems rather unlikely, however, that the proceeds will cover anything like 20% of the cost of the new trams.
For one thing, the project will probably, like most of its kind, turn out to be rather more expensive than budgeted for. For another - and one would have thought that the council would have been more aware of the law of unintended consequence - many businesses are likely to quit the city centre for pastures new, outside the charging zone.
At the time the proposal was being drawn up, this may have seemed like a risk worth taking given the cost of relocating against the background of a strong property market.
However, with so many businesses failing or contracting as a result of the recession, the commercial property market has gone into reverse and currently represents an opportunity for those remaining firms to move more cost-effectively.
Ironically, the charge and the new trams it is to fund, is justified by its supporters as a “congestion busting” strategy. If, of course, businesses do quit the city centre in the numbers expect, the strategy will have started worked even before the tramways are completed.