Talking in the pub last week, the consensus was that, as Thatcher had sold off everything that wasn’t nailed down, there was little for the current bunch of carpet-baggers to profit from but the NHS. Which, of course, they are busily engaged in, while also lying to and misleading parliament, which I always thought got you into deep legal shit. Not these days, it seems.
And then, this morning, came the news that Cameron plans to flog off parts of the road network while also claiming that no tolls would be introduced on existing roads, which doubtless tags him – as if we didn’t already know – as a pathological liar.
And I’m willing to bet that this wizard wheeze originated from his involvement with Rebekah Brooks and her ex-Met police horse.
The Met have this wonderful scam by means of which they farm out retired police horses to people who then have to foot all the care and feeding bills, while the horses still remain the property of the Met. And very often the horses can’t even be ridden. It doesn’t take a great leap of imagination for Cameron to want to apply a similar scheme to roads.
However, roads cost a great deal more to keep as pets than horses – maintenance costs – where maintenance actually happens – can be astronomical, not to mention gritting, snow clearing, and maintaining the drainage system. How is this to be funded?
Let’s look at the “no tolls on existing roads” claim again. A blatant lie, surely? Well, OK, it probably is, but maybe not, as there are other charges which could be levied which, with the mendacity that has become a by-word for this government, will surely be classed as “not tolls” (a toll, for present purposes being a per-journey charge via a bridge or tunnel, or the M6 toll branch).
In that case any other taxes the new owners dream up, can be levied with impunity, no doubt with the government taking a hefty cut of any revenue streams.
Assuming that taxation of cars and other vehicles remains in government hands, aside from tolls there are few other ways left of earning money from roads. Taxing cyclists would be one possibility, though I’m not sure that they are in sufficient quantity to yield a great deal of cash, as would charging road users by the mile (if it’s a universal charge it’s not a de facto toll), though common sense suggests that goods vehicles should be exempted, even though they cause most of the congestion and damage, charging them by the mile would simply drive up everyone’s cost of living (I seriously doubt that exclusion would happen, though). Charging motorists and bikers, and cyclists, would be a seriously good money-making scam, though, and the technology to implement it already exists in the form of electronic toll devices(for bridges and tunnels), needing little more than a firmware upgrade. Or – and no doubt a preferred option – many more surveillance cameras can be deployed.
The way I see it happening is that every mile travelled on the road network will be chargeable (already mooted, if memory serves, by Labour some years ago) – the revenue from private roads going to the new owners, the rest going into central taxation coffers – everybody wins except the public.
Have a nice day – while you can still afford it…