Taxed Off the Road

Very interesting statistics released by the Department for Transport (DfT) and reported in The Telegraph, show a dramatic drop in the number of new cars registered in the UK.  Car registration fell by 6.8 per cent in 2009 compared to 2008. This was despite the Government's "cash for bangers" scheme, which was meant to encourage people to scrap old cars, by giving them a £2,000 grant towards a new model.

Spiralling fuel prices are thought to be the underlying cause, which meant that the cost of filling the average tank rose by £10 in 2009.  A spokesman for the AA said:

"It is the impact of pump prices. When we ask motorists what factors have influenced their choice of car, fuel economy comes second after reliability. Environmental concerns come some way down."

Indeed an Ipsos MORI survey for the RAC Foundation asked 1,025 people “what do you think should be the next government’s highest transport priority after the general election?”. The overwhelming majority of those polled answered the state of roads and pavements and the cost of using a car (e.g. petrol prices) should be the next government’s priority. If the next government decides to actually listen to the public about their transport priorities, they will have to work seriously hard to reverse the high costs of using a car.

Some groups did not think the dramatic decrease in car registration was a negative thing. Stephen Joseph, executive director of the environmental lobby group, the Campaign for Better Transport said:

"What we have seen is a reduction in the use of the car for short journeys and people are being smarter about what they drive and when they drive,"

Indeed there has been a substantial rise in "car clubs" membership, with the number of members nearly doubling from 64,679 to 112,928 over the past 12 months. This is likely to mean that a number of individuals are not purchasing cars but using car club vehicles for selected journeys.

But what about the people that don’t have this luxury? Or the companies that rely on the roads to survive? When goods vehicles were taken into account the fall in vehicle registration was 11.3 per cent.  The number of new vans fell by 35 per cent, while lorry registrations dropped by 40 per cent. Rising fuel costs can a crippling burden on small businesses struggling to survive through the recession.

When road taxes are too high and grossly unfair unrest is likely to follow. One would hope the next government will learn from the petrol protests in 200

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