Denying recent press reports, Boris Johnson says Transport for London continues to chase embassies who are withholding Congestion Charge fees and penlaties.
In answers to questions from Liberal Democrat Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon, the Mayor said a recent report in the Telegraph claiming TfL had “decided in February to abandon any more attempts to force the foreign embassies to pay” was “inaccurrate”.
Johnson told Pidgeon his office “will continue to press” those who refuse to pay in conjunction with TfL and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
The Mayor said journalists enquiring about the subject had been told: “In respect of sending statements to the missions; the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issues formal letters to each foreign mission detailing all outstanding Penalty Charges owed by that mission, including Congestion Charge penalties. Although TfL has in the past issued letters to embassies detailing Congestion Charge penalties specifically, these letters essentially duplicated the FCO’s, and in fact led to some confusion amongst the missions. In light of this, in February 2009 TfL took the decision to stop sending statements. The FCO directs all embassies to TfL should they receive any enquiries subsequent to their letters.”
The US Embassy is the largest debtor with more than £3.5m of outstanding Congestion Charge fines.
Although the embassy initially paid the charge, this policy was reversed following the appointment Robert Tuttle as US Ambassador in 2005. A spokesman for the newly arrived US Ambassador Louis Susman has confirmed the Embassy intends to continue flouting the charge.
In a separate answer Johnson said the UK Government agreed with TfL “that the Congestion Charge is a charge for a service, and not a tax, which means that diplomats are not exempt from payment.”