In May 2011, then US President Barack Obama arrived in London and drove into the city center in his state car: in the middle of the “congestion zone”, a “traffic congestion zone” where each car is charged. . In 2003, then-Mayor Ken Livingstone introduced a congestion charge based on the Singapore model to reduce traffic in the city centre; The American representatives would have to pay ten pounds for each car. Ten pounds is certainly ridiculous for American representatives, but numbers are often a matter of policy. Americans didn’t pay, though Livingstone’s successor, Boris Johnson, wasn’t shy about raising the issue at a dinner with Obama.
Boris Johnson is long gone, but the problem remains. The British government and the responsible Transport for London (TfL) recently published the current status of “congestion charges”: total outstanding invoices from all embassies in the British capital now stand at £143 million.
News and “congestion charges” are a curious, ongoing topic in London, but there is always a certain emotional underpinning, as ignorance and powerlessness confront each other. TfL’s charge, currently £15 per vehicle per day, is an important part of environmental protection and has reduced traffic in the city center by more than ten per cent. However, many embassies have been refusing to pay fees and fines for 20 years; The US Embassy alone now owes £14.6 million. They see the fee as a tax and therefore they should be exempted from it. Diplomats enjoy immunity, speeding tickets are not ignored, environmental or not.
Even Ken Livingstone was very annoyed
This infuriated Johnson’s predecessor, Ken Livingstone, who called the then US ambassador a “cheating little crook”. Current mayor Sadiq Khan declined to comment when asked by SZ, but a TfL spokesman says the amount of debt has been reported back to the Foreign Office. And says somewhat unhelpfully: “Government support” is needed. But who wants to complicate diplomatic relations over a dispute over a few pounds of car fare?
It was now in the House of Commons Written report Published on the matter, it says with all available certainty: one “has no legal basis for an exception” and “expects” the embassies to pay their debts. In all fairness, the expectation is very low. The Foreign Office in Berlin states succinctly and unequivocally that this is a tax exempted by diplomatic missions due to internationally valid treaties.
In the current debtor table In terms of congestion charges, Germany ranks tenth with £4.6 million, behind Kazakhstan and Ghana and ahead of Sudan and Kenya. The German Embassy in London is located in Belgrave Square – just outside the Customs House.
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