Cheeky diplomats refusing to pay the Congestion Charge have racked up a staggering £74 MILLION in unpaid fines, figures revealed today.
Many foreign embassies have ignored the charge following its introduction in 2003, claiming it is a local tax they’re exempt from.
And ten years on the fines continue to tally up with both the embassies and Transport for London refusing to budge on their stance.
The stubborn embassies which flout the charge have now cost Londoners £74,047,592 – enough to pay for £3,200 bus drivers.
Diplomats from the US are the biggest offenders, amassing a whopping £7.8 million in fines – more than ten per cent of the overall total.
They are joined at the top by the Embassy of Japan, which owes £5.4 million, and the Embassy of the Russian Federation which has accumulated more than£5 million.
Making up the top five are the High Commission for the Federal Republic of Nigeria (£4.3 million) and the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany (£3.8 million).
It currently costs #10 to drive inside the Congestion Zone between 7am and 6pm, Monday to Friday.
Motorists who refuse to pay the charge with 28 days are left with a costly £130 fine.
Despite repeated threats of legal action from TfL, around one third of embassies continue to drive freely inside the zone.
The US embassy yesterday said it had no intention of paying the charge, which it feels it is exempt from under the 1960 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
Under the convention, all diplomats are exempt from paying local taxes – despite TfL saying it is a “charge for a service and not a tax”.
A spokesperson for the US Embassy said: “The US Embassy in London conscientiously abides by all UK laws, including paying fines for all traffic violations, such as parking and speeding violations.
“Our position on the direct tax established by Transport for London in 2003, more commonly known as the congestion charge, is based on the 1960 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which prohibits the imposition of this sort of tax on diplomatic missions.
“Our position is wholly in accordance with that agreement to which the United States and the United Kingdom are both signatories, and it is a position shared by many other diplomatic missions in London.”
The Congestion Charge brings in around £110 million a year and has has generated more than £1.2 billion in revenue since 2003.
Around £960 million of this has been spent on improvements to the bus network, £102 million has gone on roads and bridges and £70 million on road safety.
Figures show the total cost of fines has rocketed by £4 million in the past five months alone, an increase of £31,000 per WEEKDAY.
Paul Cowperthwaite, TfL’s General Manager for Congestion Charging said: “We and the UK Government are clear that the Congestion Charge is a charge for a service and not a tax.
“This means that diplomats are not exempt from paying it. Around two thirds of embassies in London do pay the charge, but there remains a stubborn minority who refuse to do so, despite our representations through diplomatic channels.
“We will continue to pursue all unpaid Congestion Charge fees and related penalty charge notices and are pushing for the matter to be taken up at the International Court of Justice.”
Top ten fines
1. American Embassy – £7,861,610
2. Embassy of Japan – £5,405,550
3. Embassy of the Russian Federation – £5,055,460
4. High Commision for the Federal Republic of Nigeria – £4,351,960
5. High Commision for the Federal Republic of Germany – £3,885,000
6. Office of the High Commissioner for India – £3,163,370
7. Embassy of the Republic of Poland – £2,603,270
8. Office of the High Commissioner for Ghana – £2,379,620
9. The Embassy of The Republic of The Sudan – £2,200,735
10. Kenya High Commission – £1,775,600