Sunday, 11 August 2013

First ever Consumer Rights Protester is sent to Coventry?

This week a 20 foot high puppet of Lady Godiva constructed for the London 2012 Games made its return journey back to Coventry to where its 11th century namesake originated. Lady Godiva was an Anglo-Saxon noble woman who, according to legend, kept badgering her husband to reduce the taxes levied on the town’s people of Coventry. Eventually he gave in, on the condition she ride naked through the market place. So she got on her horse, let down her hair, covering most of her unclothed body, and set off into the town centre giving Leofric, her husband, no option but to free the town from all of its tolls. This he duly did apart from the tax on horses, the “car of choice” for the discerning Anglo Saxon.

 Hair raising cost of parking for Barnet residents 
 Fast forward to a set of 21st century motorists in North London. The people of Barnet recently won a victory over their local council, who had raised the cost of parking permits for both residents and visitors by 300%. Locals banded together and took the council to court resulting in a winning verdict with the judge, Mrs Justice Lang, ruling that Barnet Council had acted unlawfully. Councils do have powers under the 1984 Road Traffic Regulation Act but this said Mrs Lang, “ is not a fiscal measure”, and she went on to state that it did not mean that the local authority can use “its powers to charge local residents for parking in order to raise surplus revenue for other transport services.” In effect the council were using this as a “stealth tax” to subside other services.

The true cost of filling up? 
There seem to be a number of such stealth taxes hitting the headlines recently all squeezing income from consumers but not in a visually apparent way. Driving has to be one of the most easily taxed activities with a number of less apparent levies. The Original Fuel Protest group have an interesting calculator on their website www.fuelprotest.com where you can fill in details of the cost of your last petrol bill and it calculates how much you are paying in tax. After filling up a small family car recently, the shocking total tax bill came to £27.43 out of £46.01 worth of diesel.

The breakdown of costs were as follows;
Filling Station £1.71
Oil Company £16.87
Fuel Duty £19.76
VAT on Fuel £3.72
VAT on Fuel Duty £3.95

Whilst appreciating the need for a greener environment and reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, seeing the costs set out in black and white does give the average motorist, who needs a reliable form of transport for work as well as family and social events, quite a jolt. Not enough, you will be grateful to hear, to have me saddling up, donning the old birthday suit and trotting around the city centre in protest, but certainly keeping a close eye on other hidden levies that may just be around the corner. What stealth taxes have affected your consumer habits recently?

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