Car tax – the right hand doesn’t know…

WHEN will this Government get it into their thick skulls that is it not the ownership of cars which causes problems but their use? 

Cars parked at home cause very little pollution and very little congestion. It’s when they are taken out onto to the road that the difficulties arise. 

Is that difficult to understand? No? Well it is for some people.

People like having cars around. They want them just in case. They want them to visit their mother, who lives off the bus routes. They want them so that they can go to the beach in the summer. They want them so that they can have the personal mobility that only a car can give.

So people are willing to sell themselves into dept to get their hands on a car. Everyone wants one and we might as well accept this.

The current situation is that most of the cost of using a car has to be paid up front. The price of the car; the Vehicle Registration Tax; insurance, car tax and the NCT are all accounted for before you get behind the wheel.

The solution is blindingly obvious. Transfer most of these costs and add them to the price of fuel. Then those who travel more, pay more. Big, inefficient engines pay the price. In the congested areas, slow journeys cost more, increasing the incentive to use public transport. 

But, in fact, public policy is going in the opposite direction. 

Martin Cullen, the Minister for the Environment has just announced a 5% increase in road tax, to be spent on improving roads. 

Charlie McCreevey, the Minister for Finance, might well increase fuel taxes but it won’t be anywhere near 5% because of the effect in inflation.

Seamus Brennan, the Minister of Transport, is spending a fortune on public transport while his colleagues undermine his efforts to get people out of their cars.

I make that three ministers, each with the power to influence transport policy, and no indication that any of them are talking to each other.

The thing is that green taxes are on the way anyway. The EU is coming up with a package that all countries will have to sign up to. They are doing it on the basis of the ‘polluter pays’ principle. 

We should be doing for the same reasons. Despite the fact that car engines emit only a fraction of the pollution they did 20 years ago there are far more of them around. The number of cars in Ireland has risen from 700,000 in 1985 to 1,450,000 last year.

So ownership taxes and costs are good for the exchequer but bad transport policy. 

Less is More

Martin Cullen is raising car tax to spend on roads maintenance. This doesn’t make sense.

Damage to roads is proportionate to the number of vehicles (especially those with big engines) using them.

Instead of spending more on maintenance, the Government should put the cost on fuel which would discourage use and leave the roads in a better condition. Simple, really.