IT WAS, of all people, Friends of the Earth who said it first. When Chancellor Alistair Darling announced swingeing increases in road fund taxes – and even bigger increases for older cars – the conservationist group condemned the move as “giving green taxes a bad name.”
Darling and his boss, Gordon Brown, tried to justify these extra taxes as being good for the environment because it would persuade people to take older, more polluting, vehicles off the road.
Strangely, for Labour politicians who are supposed to look after the less well off, it hadn’t occurred to either of them that the owners of older cars were most likely to be poorer people – a fact which opposition politicians were quick to point out.
The green excuse didn’t work. The majority of people I have met – and that means largely country folk – have long believed that such swipes at the motorist were just another stealth tax imposed by people with chauffeur driven Jaguars provided at our expense: Gordon Brown has to have a chauffeur because he has never taken a driving test.
Well, these suspicions were proved correct yesterday (August 28) when the TaxPayers’ Alliance, a right-wing think tank which keeps a track on Government spending, issued a damning report saying that we British tax payers coughs up some £19.5 billion more than required under complex EU laws aimed at persuading people to cut their “carbon footprints” (See News, Thursday).
So if you happen to live in the North in a rural area like the Yorkshire Dales, you are likely to be more environmentally friendly – yet pay ten times the amount of fraudulent taxes
for the privilege.
Now I admit that the TPA is an attack dog regularly at the Government’s throat but its figures are rarely questioned because they employ top tax lawyers and accountants to ensure their arguments cannot be refuted on mathematical grounds. Sadly, these experts have had many a juicy bone to chew on because of a long series of scandals in which tens of billions – some say hundreds of billions – of taxpayers money has been wasted.
In the past two or three years, in an attempt to recoup some of these losses, the Government has been trying to cut back on expenditure by slashing public services. They are closing hundreds of post offices, shutting down primary schools, closing maternity units and even abandoning sea wall defences so that large areas of the East Coast are being swept away.
And guess where most of this money is being saved: in rural areas where people already have to travel long distances to work, to shop, take the kids to school (if there is a school) or to see a doctor - and the latest cost cutting move is to close down rural GP surgeries at a time when some £20 billion is being wasted on an NHS computer system that thousands of doctors and nurses are refusing to use.
This trend – which I put down to simple malice as people in rural areas tend to vote either Tory or Lib-Dem – was further strengthened in yesterday’s TPA report, which said that the brunt of these additional green taxes was falling on country folk.
In rural Essex, it said, this was costing the average person an additional £600 a year whereas the bill for someone living in an inner city borough in London was a mere £62. Yet, as another report issued this week by scientists at York University shows, in their homes, Northerners are much less wasteful with gas and electricity than profligate Southerners (See News, Wednesday).
So if you happen to live in the North in a rural area like the Yorkshire Dales, you are likely to be more environmentally friendly – yet pay ten times the amount of fraudulent taxes for the privilege. And that’s what this is: obtaining money by fraudulent misrepresentation. A businessman who did it would go to jail. What a shame our politicians don’t face similar sanctions.