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"Grinch" Guernsey politician wants fuel duty frozen - and cyclists taxed

“I wasn’t talking about £10 or £20, I was talking about one or two hundred," says Peter Ferbrache...

A politician in Guernsey has been called a ‘Grinch’ after he said that rather than increase fuel duty, cyclists should be taxed up to £200 instead.

The comparison between the character in the Dr Seuss book How The Grinch Stole Christmas and Peter Ferbrache was drawn by  a fellow deputy in the Channel Island’s 40-member parliament, the States of Guernsey.

Ferbrache – who sits as an independent, as do all the other members including two representing the island of Alderney – acknowledged that his proposal was an “outside bet,” reports the Guernsey Press.

But he insisted that it was reasonable for all those who use the road to pay for their upkeep, saying that he “put it into the context of an alternative to the increase on fuel duty.”

In Guernsey, home to some 66,500 people,  since 1 May 2016 owners of new or second-hand vehicles being registered with the island’s authorities for the first time are required to pay a First Registration Duty.

Also known as an emissions tax, it is similar to Vehicle Excise Duty in the UK, operating on a sliding scale with the most polluting cars taxed most heavily and the least-polluting vehicles zero-rated.

Ferbrache had the owners of those vehicles in his sights too, as well as people who use public transport. “Double the price of the tickets on the buses, tax electric vehicles when they’re registered and tax cyclists,” he said.

One objection that is typically raised when the question of cyclists paying to use roads is that such a tax ends up costing more in red tape than the money it raises, but the deputy had clearly thought that one through.

“I wasn’t talking about 10 or 20 pounds, I was talking about one or two hundred,” he explained. “There is no point in having a cycle tax that costs more to administer than it does to accommodate.

“The logic is there are lots of electric push bikes now, people spend a lot of money on their bicycles,” he continued.

Another point raised in connection with cyclists is that they don’t pollute, bicycles don’t damage roads, in contrast to cars or other vehicles, and that in any event, most adult cyclists own a car so will pay the applicable duty for that.  the minor detail that roads maintenance is paid for by general taxation.

None of which seemed to have been taken into account by the deputy as he concluded: “It’s just a contribution, they use the roads, and the roads need to be maintained and resurfaced.”

The fact that cyclists and motorists are often one and the same person was noted by the States’ environment and infrastructure president, Barry Brehaut.

In response to Ferbrache's remarks, he said:  “We shouldn’t be taxing something we are seeking to encourage, to place any financial impediment on an activity that has so many health benefits really does go against the grain of all public health policy.

“Tax payers pay for all road infrastructure now, cyclist are motorists too, why should they pay twice for doing something that is actually more environmentally friendly?

“Deputy [Mary] Lowe floated the same idea some time ago, it was candidly ridiculed then, the response has been similar this time,” he added.

“A number of children will have bikes this Christmas, I hope the taxing Grinch in the form of Deputy Ferbrache spares them a visit this year and for many years to come.”

Sam Field, the president of the Sam Field of the Guernsey Bicycle Group, outlined the benefits of to individual people’s health, and said: “It is not logical or sensible to tax a behaviour that has a positive benefit to the community.

“Guernsey Bicycle Group views Deputy Ferbrache’s proposal as little more than a headline grabbing soundbite.

‘”he proposal is not thought out, nor is it practical, administratively, practically or financially,” he added.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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