Following pressure from Hammersmith & Fulham Conservative Councillors, the Labour Council have been forced into a humiliating climb down over their plans to hike up the price of parking permits.
The Labour Council had proposed to increase the price of parking permits for diesel drivers, but when faced with simple questions about what impact such a tax would have on air pollution and the number of diesel vehicles in the borough they were left floundering without answers. Just a couple of weeks after Conservatives challenged the move, in another humiliating u-turn, the Labour Leader of the Council used his urgency powers to cancel the whole scheme (unusually for him, without fanfare).
Conservatives want to see real action on air quality, not ill thought through plans designed more for grabbing a cheap headline than delivering for residents.
This u-turn by Labour is another in a series of embarrassing climb downs, which have included foiled Labour schemes to end weekly bin collections and sell off all of the boroughs council housing.
Cllr Greg Smith's speech on Labour's proposed diesel tax from January 2017 Full Council:
We all remember the days when the party opposite would decry stealth taxes: but now we see in the cold light of administration, that they actually love them.
Their slogan of doing things “with” residents, now heavily caveated to say only if they agree with - in this instance - residents’ choice of vehicle.
Now I firmly believe that the job of local government is to work to ensure we make residents lives easier. In a borough as densely populated as ours, parking will always be at a premium. But it is equally my conviction that far from nanny state finger wagging at those who's cars and vans you don’t like, we as a council should simply seek to help people and their visitors park as close to their front door as possible, no matter what they drive.
Furthermore, this new found hatred of diesel is somewhat surprising, given that the last Labour Government, egged on by the European Union, went out of their way to ENCOURAGE people to buy diesel cars.
So, why are we on this side, opposed to this additional tax on diesel car and van owners.
Firstly, because it is nonsensical from an environmental perspective. Diesel cars are simply not the worst offenders for putting nitrogen dioxide and nitrous oxide into the air. The worst offenders are aircraft and heavy goods vehicles, with buses and black cabs also contributing.
The Council should look at other positive ideas, that may actually work, rather than just taxing hard working families and individuals.
For example, gas boilers contribute approximately 12 per cent of London’s nitrous oxide emissions, which equally contribute to nitrogen dioxide. A London Boiler Cashback Scheme was launched by Mayor Boris Johnson in February 2016, providing £400 cashback to households that replaced the oldest, most polluting boilers with the newest and cleanest models. Funding of £2.6 million was allocated to the scheme, which provided for 6,500 owner occupiers and accredited private landlords to benefit from the scheme. An extension of this scheme would allow greater nitrogen dioxide savings to be achieved and more households to benefit from lower bills.
Secondly, because this stealth tax it makes no financial sense. What on earth is an extra £20 or £30 a year on the price of a permit going to achieve when the cost of changing a car will cost people a minimum of thousands of pounds if not tens of thousands? And the people who can least afford it, those who rely on their small van for work, or modest car to ferry the kids about, will be hit the hardest. That extra £20 or £30 a year will really hurt many of our residents, who need their vehicle, worked hard to get it and maintain it, and are taxed enough already on fuel, their road fund license and frankly, the current rate of parking permits.
Thirdly, bizarrely from a party who are supposed to be about fairness and the redistribution of wealth, because it is deeply unfair to those who can least afford to change their vehicle AND beneficial to the owners of more expensive, fuel inefficient cars.
Indeed, without really wanting to channel Neil Kinnock, we must ask ourselves, why is it, that a Labour Council, is taxing the owner of a diesel Ford Fiesta on Crookham Road in my ward more, but the £119,000, 16 feet long Porsche Cayenne Turbo S parked next to it gets a tax break by still only paying £119 a year, despite taking up five feet more in length! Or perhaps they are proud of wanting to charge the owner of the 75mpg Skoda Fabia on Mimosa Street more to park, but the £132,000, 15mpg, 550hp, 5.0 Litre V8 Supercharged Petrol, Range Rover SV Autobiography parked next to it less.
Is that what the Labour Party has become? Champion of the supercar? Promoter of the Porsche? Friend of the Ferrari? All great cars, but it just doesn’t add up with what they say they are trying to achieve.
To be generous, Labour are confused on this matter. To be more accurate, I think they are engaged on a mission of spite - desperate for a headline, but without and substance or foundation.
Give it a rethink guys. If you want to help the environment, there is so much more you could have done.