Caroline Pidgeon AM challenges London Mayor over unpaid congestion charges

Caroline PidgeonCaroline Pidgeon AM, Leader of the Liberal Democrats on the London Assembly, has challenged the London Mayor over congestion charges that have been evaded by embassies in the capital.

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 a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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  • Time to start a series of very long lived, disruptive roadworks in very close proximity to all these embassies.

  • Charles Beaumont 15th Feb '13 - 1:42pm

    I think the intentions are noble, but do we really think we’ll get the US government to cave in on this issue? Might it be better to put energy into getting US companies to invest in creating jobs in the UK?

  • Andrew Martin 15th Feb '13 - 1:49pm

    Seriously? Why doesn’t the London Assembly rewrite the international law on diplomatic immunity and persuade the world’s States to sign up to a new Treaty? Otherwise, is there evidence that our diplomats across the world are all very careful to pay their unenforceable parking fines?

    It would be nice for our London Assembly members to do what they do best, and focus on practical solutions to people’s problems (e.g. one hour bus ticket). This is just populist political posturing.

  • There is no legal basis to charge congestion charges to embassies or their diplomats – they are immune from such charges by virtue of international treaties.

    If such charges are being “charged” to them then the charging body is acting ultra vires.

  • The question is whether the congestion charge is something more like a tax or something more like a road toll. UK diplomats in the US do, in practice, pay road tolls, but don’t pay taxes.

  • The Congestion Charge is a charge not a tax – the clue is partly in its name, but there are good reasons to totaly reject the weasel claims of the US and some other embassies (btw I hope that the US embassy is proud that their dodging of the Congestion Charge is followed by countires such as Cuba).

    The Congestion Charge revenue is ring fenced to TfL – it doesn’t go into some general taxation ‘pot’.

    It deters people from driving in central London at certain times of the day- bringing huge benefits to other people. It also raises revenue for transport projects.

    If the Congestion Charge didn’t exist then congestion levels in central London would be far worse.

    The embassies don’t have to pay the charge – if they decide to not drive in central London at certain times of the day. The fact that they do is their choice and they should pay up – end of story. I find it amazing that people someohow want to make excuses for the minority of embassies that insult Londoners. The fact is that most embassies do actually pay it.

    Finally, this is an interesting article quoting a Republican congessman expressing his views that the Congestion Charge has brought real benefits…..

    Good for Caroline Pidgeon continuing to raise this issue – and what a shame that Boris Johnson has done so little to help resolve this issue.

  • Andrew Martin 16th Feb '13 - 4:17pm

    Christopher, an attempt to enforce the Congestion Charge against diplomats would be in breach of International Law.

    It is not a matter of whether it is a charge/tax etc., although I don’t recognise your distinction – ultimately TfL in levying the CC is acting as an organ of Government, not a contracting private party.

    The benefits of the CC are with all due respect irrelevant to the legal issue of whether immunity applies.

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