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The diaTribe blog is our occasional take on life, the universe and everything. Observations on current affairs, the environment, politics, humour and music/gig reviews. Travel diary and extreme sports stories, along with the usual rants/raves are also chucked in for good measure.

May 2006
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Rant: Always the Stick – Never the Carrot!

Traffic on the Brompton Rd, London.

Late last week, the new Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander announced a £10m fund for the development of nationwide road charging schemes.

A day later, London’s Mayor Ken Livingston indicated during a public debate that the London congestion charge could rise to £10 per day.

In Wales, it was announced that an extra charge to collect black bin rubbish from homes is among measures considered by the Welsh Assembly. Further above-inflation hikes in council tax are affecting people up and down the UK.

We used to grumble about stealth taxes, which normally popped up between the lines of the Chancellors budget speech. Now it seems that the powers-that-be have abandoned stealth in favour of an all-out assault on the populance at large. They don’t even bother trying to hide these additional taxes at all.

Why are we always faced with penalties and never offered incentives?

I don’t think that most of us really object to paying a fair rate of tax, in order to maintain the standards of living that we have come to expect and as a long-time proponent of green politics, I agree that we need to penalise those whose habits have an adverse effect on our environment as a whole.

The problem is that penalties alone wont foster the culture changes that the government is looking for.

If for example, we genuinely want to encourage commuters to use public transport rather than drive to and from work, we need to start providing realistic incentives (perhaps by making public transport cheaper, safer, cleaner and more reliable) as well as penalising them with congestion charges and road tolls.

And if the government really want to reduce NHS waiting lists, why not offer some basic form of tax relief on private medical insurance policies (instead of adding additional penalties such as insurance tax!)

Likewise, if the government genuinely wants to encourage people to make provision for their old age by investing in private pension schemes, they need to make a reasonable portion of contributions tax deductable AS WELL as tightening up regulations to deal with the current pension fiasco – not just raise the retirement age.

And finally, if the government wants to be taken seriously on any of these issues, it needs to start leading by example (call me a bluff old reactionary, but I tend to be appalled when on one hand the government nags us about pensions and then – almost in the same breath – votes to increase their OWN pension fund by £28m of taxpayers money!)

…Maybe then we might see some genuinely progressive changes, instead of more of these crappy little political stunts, wrapped up by spin doctors who try to pass them off as coherent policies.

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