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 Selected story in full
07 August 2019
Croydon deserves better than this unfair tax grab

Seeking to improve air quality and reduce vehicle emissions in Croydon is a noble objective, but the council’s poorly thought through ‘emissions-based parking charges’ scheme is going to fail to achieve that objective and merely punish the least well-off, writes Cllr Simon Hoar, shadow cabinet member for transport.

On 24thJuly the Council’s Traffic Management Advisory Committee sat to consider a policy brought forward by the Labour Council Administration for a parking policy based on the emissions of each car. At the moment this policy only applies to those living in a Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) and, whilst CPZ’s in the south of the borough are the exception rather than the rule, there will be many people in central and northern Croydon affected by these changes.

I should start by saying that I, and my Conservative colleagues, see targeting air quality as an important issue that should be addressed (it was certainly a major part of the reason that we moved two Primary Schools away from the A23 in 2011 when I was a Waddon councillor) but this policy promises only to target anyone on low incomes as a tax on parking their car. The reason for this is that it is not measuring or targeting actual emissions but is instead taxing captive car owners in certain parts of the Borough more to park their car, based on the emissions the car makes when it’s being driven around. Those who don’t live in a CPZ area are not affected but of course their cars still emit CO2 and those in the area do not emit any pollution when their car is parked.

To be fair to the Council, the policy is trying to solve a genuine problem (i.e. trying to tackle exhaust emissions) and if a resident has a fully electric car or the right type of hybrid then the permit charge reduces. Vehicles emitting under one gram of CO2 per km will see their permit charge reduce from £80 to £6.50. Those between one and 75 g/km will pay £65. So, if a resident already has one of these qualifying cars then they will be happy. Unfortunately there aren’t that many electric car owners at present, especially in areas where the residents have to park on the street (which, of course, is where the residents with permits live). The Council says it plans to fit 400 charging points in the Borough by 2022, but they are not there yet for residents to use.  

Everyone else will face an increase (including most plug-in hybrids whose owners have already taken the responsible path). Anyone with a car older than March 2001 will automatically pay the top rate of £300 regardless of its actual emissions levels. There will be vehicles that pay the Croydon charge in full but are exempt from the central London Ultra Low Emissions Zone, which is based on actual emissions and usage

The Council says those on the top rate are only a small number of people (784 out of 12,000 permits) but the second highest band where many normal family cars sit will pay £146 – a substantial increase from the current £80. My concern is this structure disproportionately targets the elderly and low paid, those who are least able to simply change their car because the Council says so and will instead be left with a massive permit charge increase purely for living in the wrong roads.

At Traffic Management we heard from four concerned residents who will be severely impacted by this plan and the consultation responses were 95% against it, pointing out many practical reasons why it was a poor policy. The paper was duly voted through though by the Labour majority group and is due to be implemented from October as permits run out. We wait to see what the response from the wider public will be.

Nevertheless, the policy is illogical. A parked car does not emit noxious fumes or greenhouse gases. Hence all should be equal. Once a car moves, it may produce noxious fumes and greenhouse gases or it may not (if it is electric). Surely price differentials should only be related to movement!

This exposes the inherent unfairness of this proposal. Consider two examples. An older resident who lives in Addiscombe in a CPZ, with an elderly car in which she does only 500 miles per year, mainly to visit family in Surrey. She drives 500 miles per year but only 50 of that is actually in the borough and almost none of it in central Croydon, where the air quality I worst. And the second example of a young executive who lives in Sanderstead but drives daily into the town centre to work. He drives a fairly modern Audi 4x4 which is not excessive in emissions but he’s driving it for hundreds of miles per year in the town centre. She pays, he doesn’t. Yet he pollutes far more than her. Not fair, is it?                                     

The Conservative government has committed the country to progressively reducing emissions and being the first country in the world to be zero carbon. But this Croydon scheme is not good policy and will have minimal impact. Sadly, like so much our council does, it is just a tax grab dressed up as ‘saving the planet’. Croydon deserves better.

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