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Mayor Boris to cover Porsche costs in CO2 tax brouhaha

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London's new mayor, the former knockabout media rascal and MP Boris Johnson, has ended the city government's legal dispute with German luxmobile firm Porsche. Johnson has scrapped plans set by his predecessor Red Green Ken Livingstone for hefty £25 daily charges on all higher-CO2 cars entering the capital, and agreed to repay the motor manufacturer's £400k legal fees relating to a planned judicial challenge against the city levy.

The Guardian reports this morning that Porsche has stated that the money will be given to Skidz, a charity which offers disadvantaged kids training in car maintenance and repairs - so possibly leading them away from a life of crime.

The broadsheet also quotes Jenny Jones, a Green Party member of the London Assembly. The Greens trailed the main parties badly in the recent City elections which ousted Livingstone and put Johnson in power. It had been thought that a number of eco crowd-pleasing moves by the former mayor in recent times - including the planned remodelling of the Congestion Charge as a CO2 tax, and the introduction of trial fleets of hydrogen vehicles - might secure him enough first or second votes from Green-leaning Londoners to stay in office. In the event this turned out not to be the case.

Unexpectedly, Jones was critical of the decision to reimburse Porsche.

"This is a mayor who is telling us he wants to see value for money," she said, "and here he is paying one of the richest car companies in the world hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money."

The Green assemblyperson gave short shrift to the Porsche plan of using the cash for training youths as garage mechanics.

"People may, quite understandably, want to see their money spent on things that they voted for," she snapped.

It seems a little unfair to blame Johnson for the payout, as in fact it was a court ruling that the city must cover Porsche's legal costs. As for the CO2 charge banding - under which smaller, more fuel-efficient new cars (eg, some VW Polos and Minis) could have been driven in London for free, and gaz guzzlers would have been charged £25 - the citizens certainly don't seem to have fancied that much. Johnson said throughout his election campaign that the plan would be scrapped if he won.

The new mayor always argued that the CO2 charge plans would hit families and small businesses, while his predecessor sought to paint the scheme as a way of soaking the rich. It's certainly true that almost all Porsche models registered in the UK would have been in the £25 band.

However, one might well argue that in fact to the numerous Porsche 911 or Bentley driving super-rich of London a maximum congestion charge of £9,125 a year is no more than a fleabite, whereas to ordinary motorists driving people carriers or whatever, regular £25 mulctings are serious money. As such, like all flat taxes, you could see Livingstone's plan as hitting the less well-off disproportionately hard. ®

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