This weekend’s reports about a new two-tier VED system – where you would have to buy a more expensive tax disc to drive on the motorway network – should come as no surprise. Plans to toll the UK motorways go back to the mid-1990s when intensive work on the idea of tolling the busiest motorways in the busiest commuter zones started.
The reality is that it doesn’t matter what shade of Government we elect, the Treasury will continue to pursue ways of extracting enough tax from us to keep the great State machine rolling. As Jean-Baptiste Colbert (treasurer to the Court of Louis XIV in the 17th century) is supposed to have said, the art of successful taxation is like plucking geese and obtaining the maximum number of feathers with the minimum amount of hissing.
Of course the policy wonks in the Treasury are not as clever as they should be. Tasked with keeping the tax rolling in, they completely bought the idea of incentivising motorists to buy more fuel-efficient cars, piling the taxes on so-called gas guzzlers.
But the combination of ever-higher fuel taxes, the recession and much more frugal cars means the Treasury is seriously out of pocket. Between April and June this year, around 500m fewer litres of petrol were sold in the UK, compared to a year earlier. Edmund King of the RAC says that 2.27 billion fewer litres of fuel were sold in the first half of 2012, compared with the first six months of 2008.