London Assembly members have called on Boris Johnson to ask US President Barack Obama and other heads of state responsible for embassies with outstanding Congestion Charge fines to explain their refusal to pay to Londoners.
More than £31m is outstanding in unpaid charges and Penalty Charge Notices with the US Embassy owing more than £3.5m. Although the Embassy paid the charge until July 2005 it now refuses to do so claiming the charge is a “tax” from which it is exempt.
In September Mayor Johnson said Transport for London continues to chase embassies who are withholding Congestion Charge fees and penalties.
A motion put forward by Liberal Democrat AM Caroline Pidgeon and seconded by Labour’s Murad Qureshi calls on the Mayor to “write to the Head of State of every nation with Congestion Charge payments and fines outstanding, demanding payment and to publish the responses of each country”.
Congratulating “the 70% of diplomatic missions that do pay the congestion charge on time”, the motion expresses regret “that some of the worst offenders include the embassies of the United States, Russia, Germany and Japan.”
The motion was originally meant to be debated at October’s Mayor’s Question Time however a walkout by Tory AMs meant motions could not be heard.
Proposing the motion Pidgeon accused the US and other embassies of “insulting their host city and denying a valuable source of income to Transport for London”, adding “the congestion charge is not a tax and the vast majority of embassies clearly recognise this. The minority that decide to not follow the rules of this country must now explain in writing how they can justify their actions.”
Mr Qureshi called on the Mayor to “put pressure on embassies refusing to pay the congestion charge”. Qureshi added: “The United States were happy to pay when the charge was £5 – where were their arguments for not paying on principle then?”