We feel worse off today, because we are worse off. Itâ€™s that time of year when we feel especially harried by our rapacious government. The Council Tax bill comes as a nasty shock, when you discover just how much money they want to take off you for emptying your dustbins. For all those who who do not have Council street lights, who do not have children at school and who never get time to go to the local library to borrow a book, the Council tax is not much of a deal. You just have to accept it as part of the requirement to help pay for the neighbours who use these local services. What is especially annoying is the perpetual wish of many Councils to spend more and more of our money limiting road space and making travel more difficult, and the growing army of Council officials that are needed to deal with the stifling central bureaucracy in Whitehall watching and motitoring their every move.
As a motorist I feel especially punished. If I try to park in parts of London, I need to spend time trying to decipher what the rules are that apply to each few yards of street, as they are often different and complex. The other day one stretch of road was red lined â€“ urban clearway from 8 am to 7 pm Monday to Fridayâ€“ which seemed to imply you could park free at other times. Nearby in the side road there was pay as you display parking which seemed to require payment from 8.30 am to 10 pm Monday to Friday and for part of Saturday, whilst in the same side road there was residents parking with different times of application. As it was a bank holiday the rules were not specified. Did a bank holiday count as a Sunday â€“ in which case I could apparently park anywhere I liked for free â€“ or did a bank holiday Friday count as a normal Friday, in which case I was snookered? I decided it was all too difficult and waited for a pay and display space to become available so I could send more money to a Council. The last thing I wanted was to fall victim to the predatory clampers or vehicle removers, who hover in parts of London waiting to pounce on anyone who dares leave their vehicle for a few minutes in the â€œwrongâ€ place and who has not obtained an A level in advanced parking rules.
A couple of weeks ago I needed to go to Ipswich. I decided to go by train. It was an eco disaster. There were only two of us in the carriage I chose, and the other carriages on a long heavy old train were equally empty. We must have caused much more pollution per passenger journey than if we had gone by fuel efficient car. The train was electric powered, meaning energy loss on a big scale at the power station to generate the electricity, as well as substantial energy loss when converting the electrical energy into motive power at the engine. Getting to the station was not easy either in the rush hour, although fortunately my destination at the other end was in walking distance of the station. Coming back there was a half hour delay. Our driver told us it would be a ten minute delay owing to a broken down freight train. It meant it would have been quicker by car after all, as well as cheaper, and greener at least on the outbound. They really do need to raise the railway’s game if it is to be environmentally friendly, and customer friendly as well.
About John Redwood
John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.
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