Time to Charge Londoners an Exit Fee
What's good for the goose. . .
Since major British cities are now, apparently, determined to entrench regional and social division further by charging visitors to visit their gold-paved streets, the rest of the country should get in on the act. Let’s tax Londoners £20 a day if they venture outside the M25. Why not? It’s only fair, and with cameras on every M25 exit, easy to automate.
Personally, if I were a Londoner living within the M25, I’d be horrified at Mayor Sadiq Khan’s decision to charge me £12.50 a day if I choose to start up my not-quite-new car. I’d also be alarmed by the degree of surveillance this ‘fine-by-computer’ system involves. And I’d worry that it’ll only catch the law-abiding, because the bad guys will just swap number-plates (hope they don’t copy mine!).
Still, I’d have to admit that he was at least elected by Londoners, and so to a certain extent I only have myself (and other Londoners) to blame.
But what about everyone else from outside the M25 who choose to visit London, or are obliged to visit? For them, this is just taxation without representation. It seems just plain wrong.
The news that if you are forced to drive to horrible Heathrow, you’ll need an extra £25 for the privilege of overstepping the M25 boundary twice, makes the imposition of this tax even more unjustifiable.
Did Magna Carta dies in vain? Er . . . “No scutage nor aid shall be imposed on our kingdom, unless by common counsel [alt. “general consent”] of our kingdom, except for ransoming our person, for making our eldest son a knight, and for once marrying our eldest daughter; and for these there shall not be levied more than a reasonable aid…”
Well, it’s not really about cars, and obviously very sound on the eldest daughters issue, but the general idea seems to be there back in 1215 that the right to tax is limited by consent. Well, people outside London were not invited to consent about Mayor Khan’s fee for using Heathrow. It is taxation without representation. So we need to have a word with Mr Khan, at Runnymede.
The danger is that local city councils’ schemes to punish drivers for driving are proliferating. London is the most egregious example, but there are limited schemes (ready for expansion, no doubt) already in place in Birmingham, Bath, Portsmouth, Newcastle, Bradford, Oxford, Greater Manchester, Bristol, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen. Doubtless, more are in the pipeline.
And, all joking aside, there are serious issues about this. The richest of Britain’s cities (London, Oxford etc) are already effectively gated communities closed to new entrants by the cost of housing. This is bad enough. The decision to impose additional entrance charges to visitors doubles down on this separation.
There are two immediately obvious costs. First, the more tightly closed these gated communities become, the smaller and more corrupt/nepotistic their gene-pool will become. The whole country will suffer for this (as the corrosion of our London-based establishment already demonstrates). But second, it potentially introduces a whole series of unexpected/unwanted trade tariffs on our internal trade. If a manufactured product assembled in Birmingham uses inputs from Liverpool, Newcastle, Birmingham and London, the additional charges imposed by the gated cities adds up. Put up enough of these charges and really, we’re heading back to the Middle Ages (or pre-Revolutionary France). Built That Wall!
The solution, though, is before us. If certain cities choose to gate themselves with these tariffs, whilst other remain free, then the rest of us would be quite within our rights to charge them an exit fee. The gate, after all, works both ways.
Charging Londoners £20 a day to leave London poses no more of a technical challenge than Mayor Khan’s ULEZ scheme deploys. Simply set up the cameras on every exit on the M25, and set the fine-computers to ‘overdrive’ and deliver the money to ‘free cities’ who don’t levy similar charges. Ditto Oxford, Liverpool, Birmingham and all the other would-be gated cities: charge them all for leaving the city-limits.
If they vote for imposing these charges on ‘outsiders’ they should be made to realize they are also voting for their own voluntary incarceration within the city, moderated by ‘exit’ charges. (Maybe, like Oxford’s 15-minute city scheme, we could give them a limited number of free exeats every year?)
‘Free cities’ would face no such fees, which in time could give them a significant economic advantage.
I jest, obviously. Or do I? After all, if these ‘gated city’ schemes continue to proliferate, it will further erode our society, our nation and our economy. It is, in short, a Very Bad Thing. Maybe reminding these would-be gate-keepers that the gate can swing both ways, is a deterrent we could quietly threaten to use.