Date registered: Jan 2005
Vehicle: 1992 W126 300 SE
Location: Head in the clouds
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Quoted: 3 Post(s)
Little America-Thankyou for your support.
The Times October 19, 2005
Diplomats rebel on congestion charge
By Ben Webster and Will Pavia
Foreign embassies refusing to pay are colluding against Mayor of London's 'illegal tax'
KEN LIVINGSTONE, the Mayor of London, is facing a rebellion by foreign embassies against the congestion charge.
The German Embassy is now following the United States in refusing to pay on the ground that the charge is an illegal tax. As other European embassies prepared to follow suit, a top US Embassy official warned Mr Livingstone last night not to Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“interfere with diplomats carrying out their businessĂ˘â‚¬?.
David Johnson, the Deputy Chief of Mission, said: Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“We think itĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s perfectly clear that this is a tax. We have ceased paying it.Ă˘â‚¬?
Mr Livingstone promised to retaliate by clamping and removing cars belonging to diplomats and by attempting to shame the US mission.
But the German Embassy echoed the US line yesterday and other European embassies are reported to be lining up to follow suit as it emerged that EU diplomats met in the summer to discuss sidestepping the charge. Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Representatives from all EU member-state embassies and missions discussed this,Ă˘â‚¬? a German diplomat told The Times. The German Embassy later received a Berlin memo stating that the congestion charge was a tax from which its diplomats were exempt.
Transport for London, (TfL), which charges drivers Ă‚ÂŁ8 a day for using central roads in the capital on weekdays, will try to embarrass rebel diplomats by passing details of unpaid fines to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to add to its annual league table of embassies that have the highest number of outstanding parking and congestion charge penalties. Last yearĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s top named-and-shamed embassies were Egypt, United Arab Emirates and Angola.
TfL has the support of the Foreign Office, which says thatBritish diplomats in Norway and Singapore are not exempt from congestion charges there.
Graham Tope, leader of the London AssemblyĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s Liberal Democrats, said: Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“This is not Baghdad, this is London, and they should respect the rules of the country they are guests in.Ă˘â‚¬?
Meanwhile, figures published by the GovernmentĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s Small Business Service reveal the decline in small businesses in the congestion zone last year. For the first time in ten years, the number of businesses that de-registered for VAT (closed or went bankrupt) exceeded new business start-ups in the City, in Westminster, Holborn and St Pancras, leaving London languishing at the bottom of the national league table.
Those businesses in areas that surround the charging zone showed net gains, but overall, London has plunged into the red. Peter Hulme Cross, business spokesman for the One London group at the London Assembly, challenged the mayor on the damage to small businesses in the zone and called for concessions, including suspension of the charge outside morning and evening rush-hour periods.
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“This disturbing evidence of business closures from the GovernmentĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s own figures is clear,Ă˘â‚¬? he said. Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Street parties and other gimmicks are not enough to rescue these businesses. Practical measures are needed urgently. The mayor is ignoring these figures for political convenience and Central London businesses are going to the wall at record levels.Ă˘â‚¬?
Mr Livingstone denied that the charge was a significant factor in driving business out of Central London.