Thursday, 13 February 2014

UK Road Tax and Potholes

I’d like to introduce this cat to those pigeons over there…
Ten minutes on Google searching for ‘road tax’ and ‘repairing potholes’ plus five minutes on my local council’s website gave me all the information in this post.

In the UK, a lot of people talk about ‘road tax’. They talk about how cars have priority over bicycles because they pay it and that the money should go towards road maintenance to reduce the number of potholes.

But there are several things wrong with the above paragraph. Most importantly, road tax was abolished in 1937.
 Along with a few other changes since olden times.
Vehicle owners pay ‘vehicle excise duty’, also known as ‘car tax’ or ‘vehicle tax’, and that tax is treated like any other. It’s not a special tax for generating road maintenance funding, as the old road tax was, nor is it a way to buy status in the traffic hierarchy.
Traffic hierarchy comes from who has the greatest killing potential and only arseholes use it.

In 1926, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Winston Churchill opposed the abolition of road tax: "Entertainments may be taxed; public houses may be taxed… and the yield devoted to the general revenue. But motorists are to be privileged for all time to have the tax on motors devoted to roads? This is an outrage upon… common sense."
It's possible he didn't much care for transport that restricted his choice of hat
Pothole repairs in the UK are paid for from the same taxes as everything else, by central government and local councils combined. In 2012 the government put £200 million into national road maintenance and my local council added over £400,000 to their share of it.
A pothole, yesterday.
Currently, local councils combined pay out an estimated £2.5 million a year in compensation to drivers whose cars have been damaged by potholes. The cost of the national backlog of road repairs has been estimated at £10 billion, so it’s 4000 times cheaper to pay out the compensation than fix the roads, which are constantly falling into further disrepair anyway.
At some point you have to admit you have a problem
The government says they’ve recently invested £10 billion “in roads”, but as only 2% of that went to road maintenance in 2012 I’m assuming the other £9.8 billion is either paying for unnecessary new roads that will inevitably increase congestion, is in coffers waiting for the stars to align, or already been spent on Highways Agency champagne lunches.

Vehicle tax generates £38 billion a year, which goes straight into the treasury along with the other taxes to pay for everything from Trident missiles to corgi food.
This is just an excuse to show Her Maj with James Bond again

The cause of potholes is winter and traffic. If people drove less there’d be less potholes because it’s the drivers driving about everywhere that creates the problem. If the weather is bad (in England that’s a given) then as fast as holes are repaired new ones will appear. Moaning that the council hasn’t fixed the roads doesn’t even engage with the problem.

So, to recap:

  • Drivers cause potholes by driving over roads weakened by bad weather.
Seriously, go home and call in. Say you tried.

  • In bad weather more people drive, which makes things even worse.
  • Local councils receive no money from vehicle tax.
  • Drivers expect councils to pay for damage caused by drivers.
  • The amount the government spends on road repairs is a fraction of the amount vehicle tax generates.
  • Vehicle tax does not pay for road maintenance because drivers are not special people who get to choose what their taxes are spent on.

  • All vehicle tax goes to central government and has done since 1937.
  • Local council funds spent on road maintenance come from council tax paid by driving and non-driving residents alike.
  • The more money spent on roads the less there is to spend on parks, general maintenance, children’s centres, schools, youth services, public safety, refuse collection, recycling, major projects, democratic services, coastal defences, pest control, environmental protection, pollution control, noise control, licensing, sustainability, cleaning poo and chewing gum off the pavements, city-wide planning, planning application services, disability services, older residents care and services, legal services, complaints processing, registrar services, public records, local sports schemes, housing, outreach projects, social work, safeguarding children, libraries, museums, galleries, conference centres to attract investment and generate income, heritage sites, public transport, cycle lanes, free school meals, cutting grass verges, road safety, parking facilities and enforcement, traveller issues, adult education, alcohol and drug advice/support/fallout, leisure centres, fostering and adoption services, economic development, road gritting, and park and ride schemes to reduce the traffic causing all the potholes in the first place.
Parks and Recreation,

  • Most people think councils only collect the rubbish and repair the roads. 
  • Drivers are not special (worth saying again) and don’t have priority on the roads, just the means to go fast and kill people. 
  • This makes drivers feel safe and gives them a sense of entitlement.
Not safe. Not entitled. Not even you. 

  • If more money was spent on road repairs drivers would complain there wasn’t enough left to pay for refuse collection. 
  • They’d then wonder why all the parks, libraries and sports projects were shut down. 
  • They’d also complain they pay too much council tax. 

If you can track it down online, this is an interesting documentary about local services and what council tax is spent on.

No comments:

Post a Comment