In answer to Caroline’s written question the Mayor admitted that embassies currently owe around £68 million. By the end of the year they will owe the equivalent to almost £10 to every Londoner.
The majority of embassies have some charges to pay. Two years ago the Liberal Democrat group studied the data gleaned through a Freedom of Information request and found that about a quarter of all embassies in London refuse to pay any charges at all. These persistent evaders include some of the richest countries in the world – US, Russia, Japan and Germany. To date the American Embassy owes over £7 million in unpaid charges
Caroline is quoted as saying:
Too many embassies are insulting their host city by evading a charge which everyone else – including even the Queen – has to pay if they wish to drive in central London.
The Congestion Charge brings benefits from reduced congestion and it also funds transport projects.
Under Boris Johnson the level of unpaid Congestion Charge has soared and soon each and every Londoner will be owed £10 by these embassies and diplomatic missions that dodge paying the charge.
It is time the Mayor of London showed some real leadership on this issue, instead of his frequent excuses.
Back in December 2009 the London Assembly called on Boris Johnson to write to every head of state which had an embassy in London that evaded the Congestion Charge. The Mayor should have then published online the responses he received. Yet the Mayor rejected these proposals and instead has allowed the unpaid Congestion Charge bill to soar.
* Mary Reid is the Monday Editor on Lib Dem Voice.