Wednesday, 1 October 2014
Render unto Caesar - and prove it
Apparently from today we no longer need to display a colourful tax disc on our car windscreens to demonstrate that we've paid our road tax. The excuse is that it will save money (possibly enough to buy a few more Cruise missiles) and the police have mysterious ways of knowing whether or not the tax has been paid. This happens, presumably, only when the car is stopped by them for some other reason.
I believe the government is still advertising on television to persuade us to dobb in our neighbours if we think they're cheating on benefits. This, I fee,l is disgraceful, (as well as being very un-British - all the best public school stories denigrate "sneaks") but the tax disc is a well accepted system and I see no harm in enabling our neighbours, and any casual passer-by, to to spot that we're tax-cheats if we display only an outdated disc, or none at all.
Indeed, I'd go further and adopt the French system, which requires vehicles to display not only a tax disc, but also proof of being insured - it's a small square and goes on the other side of the windscreen. I suspect there are many more uninsured vehicles in Britain than there are untaxed ones, purely because a tax disc has until now to be displayed. And uninsured drivers tax the rest of us by imposing higher premiums on the payers in order to make up for their deficiencies.
On a topic that's only slightly related, it is mooted that the non-payment of the TV licence is to cease to be a criminal offence. Tories in particular show a sudden and touching concern for the welfare of their fellow citizens too poor to pay their whack - whilst at the same time voting enthusiastically to cut their social security payments even further. Decriminalisation of non-payment is obviously a ploy to attack the BBC, who estimate that the change would cost them a £200m a year.
If the government is desperate to cut expenditure on the BBC then they could reasonably stop giving free licences to75+ year-olds such as me who could well afford to pay for one. This would not involve means-testing: just don't allocate free licences to those whose pensions or other incomes are sufficient for them to have to pay income-tax. The same rule could apply to the winter fuel allowance, which one of my friends refers to as his "winter wine" allowance