Stuck in a traffic jam? Blame Gordon.
We groan under the weight of over 150 stealth taxes since Gordon “Prudence” Brown took office in 1997 – now amounting to £1,500 for every working person in the country – but, as every driver knows, to enable him to sustain his reckless level of spending, in ten years as Chancellor, he has also milked the road transport system.
During that period, Britain’s major road network has increased by less than one percent, motorway traffic has grown by 36 percent.
Yet, for the “privilege” of suffering more and more congestion, Mr Brown has been extracting £42.2 billion a year from road users: fuel tax £22.1 billion; Vehicle Excise Duty £4.6 billion; VAT on vehicles £6.8 billion; VAT on fuel £5.6 billion and company car tax £3.1 billion – plus another £75.2 billion into the economy through their purchase of vehicles, fuel and basic running costs.
By contrast, the expenditure on UK roads infrastructure in 2003 (the last figures available) was a mere £6.7 billion. As a result, our motorway network now ranks among the least developed in Europe (motorway network length to unit of GDP). The UK is fourteenth out of a European league table of 15 – only Ireland has fewer miles. Congestion is estimated to cost the country at least £15 billion a year.
Not only that, Gordon Brown has also been skimping on road repairs, threatening irreparable damage to the very infrastructure on which he so much relies.
By 2002, the repairs backlog was estimated at £7.4bn, and by this year, English local authorities were complaining that it would take 11.1 years just to clear the existing shortfall. However, instead of being allowed to spend funds already paid by road users, to repair roads properly, local authorities were having to fill potholes at a rate of over one million a year, at a cost of £37 million.
Remarkably, in 2007, even more was spent on compensation for damage to vehicles, which amounted to £43 million. This did not include the cost of the 42,000 days of local authority staff time spent handling claims.
This fiasco is the responsibility of Gordon Brown. Not only has he had absolute control of the money, he has manoeuvred into post the last two Transport Secretaries, two Scottish lawyers – Alistair Darling (so close he is now hot favourite to be the next Chancellor), and former Edinburgh solicitor Douglas Alexander, who started off his political career as Brown’s Parliamentary researcher and speechwriter. Between them, they have come up with a cunning plan: to charge us even more.
Tomorrow, I will reveal how the wheels are coming off this “cunning plan”.
Owen Paterson is MP for North Shropshire and Shadow Minister of State for Transport