So the Tories are proposing a move towards more environmental taxes, based on the principle the polluter pays. Now I am all in favour of increasing environmental taxes and reducing direct taxation, but can we trust the Tories on this one? After all this is a party whose leader cycles to work to show his green credentials, but then has an aide driving a car with a change of clothes and his papers. As someone who also cycles to work, I have always managed to carry all I need in panniers or a rucksack. (Indeed I managed to carry all I needed for a weekend away in two panniers, but I digress). Where did they get these new policies from? Well, it appears that they copied them from the Liberal Democrats, nothing new there then.
Changes in tax aimed at changing behaviour require political bravery and strong leadership, do we have such politicians? The current evidence is that we don’t. When it was proposed that Edinburgh should have a £2 congestion charge during rush hour (it wasn’t even going to be for the whole day) the politicians bucked at the first squeal from motoring groups. Even though all the evidence from other cities which have such a charge is that it has been successful, I have often heard car drivers claim that they have more right to the road because they pay road tax. But if they had to pay the real cost of their road usage in a tax based on the damage they do they would be quickly looking for other forms of transport. So long as the cost is paid for from general taxation it will remain hidden. The money raised from Vehicle Excise Duty (it is not road tax) is only a small fraction of the cost of maintaining the road system and not counting the environmental cost.
I am not saying there should be no cars at all, just that other forms of transport should be given equal support and the most appropriate forms of transport should be given priority according to area. I.e. in towns and cities cars should be at the bottom of the list, in rural areas with low population densities mass transit systems are less practical. The car is not going to go away any time soon, as the Swedes and Brazilians have shown, even when we have stopped using fossil fuels cars will still be around. Saab have shown that cars running on bio fuels are far more efficient in terms of raw power.
It is not just transport, that can benefit from the application of green taxation measures. A recent report suggested that, in order to encourage recycling of household waste, the way we are charged for the disposal of rubbish should be changed. Instead of the current flat rate which is included in the Council Tax, householders should be charged according to how much non-recyclable rubbish they produce. From a personal perspective, again this is a move I would support. I live in a household which has a recycling rate close to the European average, way above the British average (we would recycle more if the facilities were available). Such a change would save us money by making the polluters pay and ending our subsidy of them. Obviously increased recycling is not the only solution, it is better to avoid buying over packaged items in the first place, which is not always easy.
I could go on, but I think I will save it for later posts.