Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by North London Leadership (IT 22)


  North London Leadership is a public-private sector partnership, comprising businesses, Middlesex University and the boroughs of Barnet, Enfield and Haringey, as well as North London Training and Enterprise Council. It aims to facilitate the sustainable regeneration of north London.

  North London Leadership identified transport and environmental problems at an early stage as one of the major inhibitors of such regeneration. It has set up a transport forum which very quickly reached the conclusion that it would not be possible, even if it were desirable, to solve these problems by the endless addition of new infrastructure. We had to make better use of the infrastructure we have, in particular by reducing the number of car commuter journeys, thereby freeing up roadspace for buses and commercial vehicles. The transport forum therefore centred its activities on developing Company Travel Plans or Green Commuter Plans. We have developed a pilot project involving the Ford Visteon plant at Enfield.

  In general terms, we very much welcome the Integrated Transport White Paper. Its assessment of the problems and solutions very much reflect our own. We are particularly pleased with the emphasis given to Green Commuter Plans in the document.

  However, there is one aspect to which we would like to draw the Committee's attention, and that is the present anomalous situation whereby benefits to car users such as workplace parking spaces are untaxed but assistance to greener modes are taxed as a benefit in kind. Our survey work among businesses in the Lee Valley, for example, found one firm, which used to run a works bus but abandoned it because of the tax situation. The White Paper addresses this issue in paragraph 4.132 on page 123, which I quote in full:

    Not all employers may be aware of the possibility, under the present tax system, of off-setting against taxable income, expenditure they incur in encouraging their employees to use green transport—such as the running expenses of a bus or coach to bring employees to work. Capital allowances may be available for capital expenditure. But where such benefits are provided, employees may face an income tax charge. The Inland Revenue intend to publish further guidance on the tax rules later this year, and in the meantime, employers should check the position with tax offices at an early stage in their planning.

  The clear implication of this is that the current situation will not change. We believe that this is too weak. Adjustment to the tax rules would be a clear, inexpensive, short-term way to send out a clear message that the Government favours greener methods of getting to work. This is particularly important in view of the fact that it is likely to be some time before local authorities are able to implement workplace parking charges, and not all of them will choose to do so.

  Similarly, the preceding paragraph, 4.131, sets out the intention to undertake research on the importance of tax factors in influencing mode of travel. We consider that such research should not be allowed to delay the implementation of changes which could be made easily and quickly to provide at the very least a "level playing field" between the different modes of transport and preferably, favour the greener modes.

John Uden

Managing Director

22 September 1998

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