Plans to discourage the use of 4x4 vehicles through an increase in taxation have being unveiled during today's Budget speech by Chancellor Gordon Brown - and the news has left countryside groups distinctly unhappy.
The Countryside Alliance has warned that higher taxes on high-emission cars and 4x4s will negatively impact rural Britain, and is likely to have a negligible effect in urban areas.
Under Gordon Brown's proposals, vehicles with high carbon emissions will be penalised, paying a higher annual Road Tax of £210. While many sports and estate cars will fall into this bracket, most four-wheel drive vehicles, which farmers and the rural population are dependent on in their daily lives, will also fall into the new higher tax band.
Alliance Chief Executive Simon Hart commented:
"An extra £45 on a tax bill will make no difference to those in urban areas who can fork out £50,000 on a leisure vehicle.
"As it stands, this vehicle tax 'superband' is merely paying lip service to the environmental lobby, and ignores the needs of the rural community, who put four-wheel drives to their proper use.
"It will have a direct impact on farmers and rural workers who depend on their 4X4 vehicles to go about their daily business, and use them through necessity rather than choice.
"We are talking about people with battered four-wheel drives and real tractors rather than brand new immaculate Chelsea tractors."
The issue of taxing 4x4's for the environmental damage they cause has risen quickly up the political agenda following a dramatic rise in the inappropriate use of such vehicles by city dwellers.
The nearest that most of these 4x4's come to 'off-roading' is whilst mounting the kerb outside many an urban school gate - and in recent years a vigorous campaign has been launched against such inappropriate use.
The Alliance Against Urban 4x4's sprang up in London but has now spread nationwide; the organisation states its primary goal as being 'to make driving a big 4x4 in town as socially unacceptable as drink-driving'.
The Countryside Alliance's Simon Hart continued: "In 2000, this Government made a commitment to the rural community, promising 'rural proofing' of legislative and tax measures.
"Once again, it seems to have failed to do so. In his search for an eye-catching environmental initiative, the Chancellor has taken an ill-thought through approach to solving an urban problem, which will hurt hard-up rural families and businesses."
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