US government owes over £12m in unpaid congestion charge
The US Government was today revealed to have run up the biggest debt for refusing to pay the London congestion charge.
The US Embassy owes Transport for London £12,598,845 in unpaid charges and fines, according to figures obtained by the Standard.
TfL said that three quarters of foreign embassies based in the capital do pay the £11.50 weekday charge but a “stubborn minority” refuse to pay.
This is in spite of repeated attempts by City Hall and TfL to recoup the cash, which is reinvested in the capital’s public transport network.
A total of 146 embassies have C-charge debts, with a total outstanding of £118,543,795.
Japan has the second highest debt of £8,631,690. Nigeria is third on £7,149,725, India fourth on £6,196,465 and Russia fifth on £5,736,105.
The central London zone was introduced by Ken Livingstone in February 2003. Embassies that refuse to pay do so by claiming that the charge is a tax, from which they are exempt. TfL insists the C-charge is a charge for a service, from which there is no exemption
Paul Cowperthwaite, TfL’s general manager for road user charging, said: “We are clear that the congestion charge is a charge for a service and not a tax. This means that foreign diplomats are not exempt from paying it.
“We continue to pursue all unpaid congestion charge fees and related penalty charge notices.”
TfL has asked the Foreign Office to assist and wants the International Court of Justice to intervene.
By contrast, foreign diplomats are exempt from the £12.50 ultra low emission zone (Ulez) levy, which was introduced in the same central London zone in April. TfL said embassies tended to lease vehicles that were already Ulez compliant.
The former US Embassy, in Grosvenor Square, would have attracted a 90 per cent “residents discount” as it was within the zone. The new embassy in Battersea is outside the zone.