Twenty-first century window tax…

Nottingham is once again subject to unjust taxation by an evil regime... where's Robin Hood when you need him?

The title is a bit of a misnomer really, but window tax was such a beloved topic on school trips back in the day I couldn’t resist, always painted with the picture of absurdity when an older building with bricked up windows was encountered.  Of course, think about it more sensibly and using the number of windows as the proxy for the size and value of a property for the purposes of taxation isn’t as ridiculous as you might first think.  But it is generally held up as a ludicrous idea.  What I’m writing about is a ludicrous idea.

Ludicrous, but strangely ingenious from a cynical local authority.  I’m back to moaning about Workplace Parking Levy.  Nottingham City Council have decided that to fund the extension of the tram system (that isn’t needed) they should levy a toll in some way to those causing congestion.  Of course, there’s a great precedent for this – the congestion zone in London.  However, the drawback for that is the need for the authority in question to invest a lot of cash up front in cameras, payment methods and administration. They would, too, alienate large sections of their voters – but more on that later.

The plus side is that it would be fair – all road users be they leisure users, commuters, people-on-the-school-run etc would all contribute evenly to pay for a scheme that by definition is of no use to them (after all, if the tram actually served a useful cross-section of Nottingham then we could all leave our cars at home and not incur the evil plans of the council.  They have decided that workplaces inside the City Council area should pay for parking spaces for their employees.  Leaving employers with a quandary of whether or not to pass on this charge to their employees.

The genius part of this from the council is they’ve basically activated a cash source and landed companies with responsibility to pay for it, to – if they pass on the charge – administer the collection and delivery of the payment, and to police it over time.  And in condemning thousands of people to having to actually have to pay to go to work, they’ve been able to do so without alienating a single voter in their council area – because pretty much everyone affected will travel into Nottingham City Council territory from without.

It’s a piece of Machiavellian political perfection that I grudgingly admire in some ways – having said that, I am deeply unhappy at the prospect of having to pay a monthly fee for the privilege of going to work from April 1st 2012.  In the case of my employer, they have opted to pass on the charge to us – and to be honest, with thousands of parking spaces eligible it’s an understandable move.  They’ve done some jiggery-pokery to pro-rata it across all users of the site, they’ve subsidised those who earn less than a certain tariff and they’ve waived the need for disabled motorists or occasional car users to pay.

The upshot is that we don’t have to pay the ‘full amount’ but what the money-men have determined to be a fair way of covering the cost.  The company remains opposed to the scheme, but appears to be resigned to complying.  I’d have been tempted to shift all the carparks to the area of the site sitting in Broxtowe Council’s jurisdiction, but of course, that would cost money.  Or insisting on checking every car every day coming on to our site – that would bring Nottingham to an absolute standstill.

Obviously the personal impact of this is a bit of a driver for me having a big fat moan about it – however, there is a wider concern – if you were a medium to large company considering locating in Nottingham, with other locations competing, would such a cynical tax on having parking spaces make you think about going somewhere else?  It would me.

So, Nottingham City Council are:

  • Punishing people for not being adequately served by public transport (particularly those who won’t benefit from the tram extension) during a time when they face pay freezes or even pay cuts
  • Punishing businesses in the midst of a difficult financial climate
  • Claiming to be addressing congestion whilst only targeting one segment of motorists who contribute to this (admittedly a significant one)
  • Dissuading medium-to-large businesses from considering Nottingham as a place to locate themselves either in the future (either new-to-Nottingham businesses or perhaps even existing companies who find a more accommodating authority in another location)

The worst thing is not living under their despotic regime I can’t even vote against them the next time an election comes up, and given that their electorate for the most part won’t be affected by these machinations, the chances are they won’t be motivated to get shot of the buggers either.  Genius.  Infuriating, but genius.  I jokingly referred to Robin Hood in the image caption above, obviously famous for flying in the face of unjust overlords.  Amusingly enough, Nottingham City Council make a big show of representing the home of Robin Hood.

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