Boris Johnson, Mayor of London has recently suggested that drivers of older diesel cars would be charged an additional £10 per day to drive in London and given a rebate of £1000 or £2000 if that scrap a dirty diesel and replace it with a new clean mode as part of a new scrappage scheme. Strangely, on becoming mayor in 2008 he cancelled Ken Livingston’s proposed £25 per day congestion charge for the most polluting vehicles saying “I am delighted that we have been able to scrap the £25 charge, which would have hit families and small businesses hardest”, but anyway, Boris will always be Boris and will always be unpredictable and will always play to the camera! There are too many things wrong with this scheme for it to be worth detailing them, suffice to say the main winners would be car manufacturers and retailers.
This carrot/stick proposal did however leave me wondering if the scrappage concept could be reworked to meet the needs of all road users, to reduce the number of cars on GB roads and in particular to reduce the number of cars parked on our streets.
First – the stick. An annual fee of £36 (10p a day) would be charged for people who wish to leave their car regularly on the street overnight, where safe and legal, to be paid to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (VDSA, formerly VOSA) annually as part Vehicle Excise Duty. The term ‘Regularly’ used above could be defined to mean that the vehicle was stored over-night on more than five occasions on more that three separate weeks, thereby excluding someone who leaves their car on the street over night once in a blue moon. Assuming that some 50% of 34 million vehicles owners pay the fee, it would raise £600 million per year.
Now for the carrot. This £600 million would be used to incentivise people to scrap a vehicle they own, paying out a modest £150 – £200 per vehicle to the first 3 to 4 million people who scrap a car each year. Dead cars are actually worth some £150-200 for scrap anyway, making £300-£500 in total – so would be a useful sum to many people. Needless to say the £36 per year over-night parking permit would irritate some people to get rid of their car or move it onto private property and would ensure that no one who parked on the street overnight would be able to pay £0 VED.
My guess is that this would work on many levels, resulting in:
- people moving their vehicle onto private property to avoid the fee
- people selling their vehicle to avoid the fee
- people scrapping old cars both to get the refund and to avoid the fee
- a less congested road network
- a huge debate about whether this is good policy or an outrageous liberty
- bringing many parties together who wish to see a reduction in parking pressure on our roads
- a way out for provide politicians who have allowed this mess to build up over the years
- the creation of an economic lever that prices this ‘externality’ which until now been un-costed
- demand for additional some new vehicle sales as well?
How would it be enforced? Authorities would drive along urban streets at night a few times a month with a CCTV vehicle and record number plates. They would then filter out those who have paid and send the resulting details to VDSA who would correlate this with other sightings and issue fines to keepers of vehicles that have parked on-street for more than the allowed number of occasions. It is likely that the enforcement process would do more that cover its costs from fine income with the surplus being available to increase the incentive to scrap vehicles.
Would it be popular? It would certain generate howls of protest and reams of coverage in the papers, however a charge 10p per night for parking on public property is hardly a ripoff and street parking is widely recognised as being a serious issue with the majority of the population supports action on this. Up to 3 million people a year would befit directly from the scheme when they scrap vehicles, including many who would have scrapped them anyway.
As such I think there could well be more people for it than against it. As a reference point, I have calculate that some 1.5 million are scrapped per year on average, so with a target of 3 million per year would result in a doubling of vehicles being scrapped. If sufficient people were not incentivised to scrap vehicles by the offered refund, it could be increased until it was.
There would of course be unintended consequences which would need to be considered, including people who convert their front gardens into parking to avoid the fee and increased surveillance of the population by the state to name but two. I believe that these should be identified and managed rather than being used as a reason not to do anything.