Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

Bruges Group Blog

Spearheading the intellectual battle against the EU. And for new thinking in international affairs.

ULEZ and the Poll Tax


If you want more money off the poor you'll have to give it to them first.

Even the Conservatives took some account of this when they first proposed a Community Charge. Here is how they announced it in their 1987 General Election manifesto:

'We will legislate in the first Session of the new Parliament to abolish the unfair domestic rating system and replace rates with a fairer Community Charge.

'This will be a fixed rate charge for local services paid by those over the age of 18, except the mentally ill and elderly people living in homes and hospitals. The less-well-off and students will not have to pay the full charge but everyone will be aware of the costs as well as the benefits of local services. This should encourage people to take a greater interest in the policies of their local council and in getting value for money.'

There were two flaws in this proposal. One is the illusion that the general populace is as interested in the minutiae of politics as the Bubble People who dream up ever more rules for them to follow. National governments are cast out and voted in on vague impressions or some burning issue, not manifestoes; since local authorities don't declare war or decide rates of income tax, they are of even less interest, as turnout statistics show.

But the second defect was one that really did get people interested, far more than the politicians themselves wanted; it sparked the 'Poll Tax' riots. It was a regressive tax, affecting the less well-off proportionally more, as flat-rate charges do.

Worse still, local authorities in less-prosperous cities had more of the poorer sort to care for, so if the latter got a discount on their Community Charge, the extra financial burden would fall on those above them, again hitting the middle classes harder than the wealthy.

The reaction was a lesson never to be forgotten… or so you might have thought.

Mayor Sadiq Khan's ULEZ scheme, now legally approved to extend to Greater London, is a £12.50 daily charge for non-exempt vehicles. Assuming 250 working days in the year, that equates to £3,125.

That's net income, after tax and National Insurance. According to this calculator, a person earning £30,000 a year would need a £4,595 pay rise to cover the ULEZ cost, if it couldn't be claimed on expenses. That is also an earnings level that is unlikely to suport the purchase of a new electric car, especially now that other living costs have soared.

Other than walking, or knocking people off pavements with lecky scooters, or being knocked off your sparky bike if you ride on the road - and those options may not let you carry everything or everyone you need to - what are the 'green' alternatives?

  • The London Underground is fully electrified - but particulate air pollution is 15 times worse down there than at the surface. That's assuming you are mobile enough to use the system, and that the stations are conveniently sited for your purposes.
  • Only 11% of London buses are fully electric or hydrogen-powered while 44% are still wholly fossil-fuel; without more money conversion of the entire fleet to zero-emission will not be complete before 2034.
  • As of 2021 only 29% of London black cabs were 'zero emission capable.'

There is a fashion - and Mayor Khan seems to have bought into this - of imposing inconvenience by force, rather than striving to provide better choices. Think of the '15-minute-cities' road blocks, ghettoising urban dwellers; what an outrage.

In political party terms it is curious, too - Westminster Council Leader Dame Shirley Porter's 1986 'homes for votes' project was a Conservative design to build the Left-voting poor out of the borough; now, Labour apparatchik Khan's ULEZ seems aimed at driving the working classes out of London altogether - but then, New Labour is Not Labour.

Perhaps politics has moved on: it's no longer Our Lot against Your Lot, it's Them Above against Us Below. It is almost as though there is fun in Orwell's 'boot stamping on a human face – for ever', but in the name of Green Brother.

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Tel: 020 7287 4414
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Chairman: Barry Legg
Director : Robert Oulds MA, FRSA
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