Green Shoots

A journey in optimism, ethics and enterprise

Riding the Green Wave…

…or why the Department for Transport has been deliberately making your journey times longer

There was a interesting minor story on the BBC yesterday (Drivers catch green lights ‘wave’) that gave car drivers some good news. Until now the Department for Transport (DfT) has opposed the idea of synchronising traffic lights so that drivers travelling at the speed limit could experience every light turning to green just as they approached it. Basically on a long main road with multiple junctions, the lights would be synchronised so that after seeing a green at the first set of lights, you would see a green light at every set after that if you drive at or just below the speed limit.

The idea was being hailed as a good for the car driver and good for the environment. Now the first is obviously true – people hate red lights after all – and the latter is also likely to be true as driving at an even speed reduces fuel usage and every time you brake for a red traffic light you are wasting the moving energy that you had. Hurrah for a green government I can hear you calling.

And you may be right to be happy – however what amazed me in the story was why the green wave system had been discouraged before. The DfT had opposed the scheme because it was a “benefit” to keep fuel usage high so as to maintain income from fuel duty. So the “green” Brown government actually thought there was a benefit to society in us being slowed down on our journeys and using more fuel? Absolute madness. Who did the DfT believe it was acting in the best interests of? Clearly not the environment or the average person. It makes it all the more galling when you then read what they then said to the BBC “Tackling climate change is one of the single most important issues we face, and cutting road transport CO2 emissions will play an important part in that.” That’s not suddenly happened overnight – climate change has been the big issue for 20 years.

This isn’t a green wave – this is more green spin. The scandal of MPs expenses is nothing compared to this. Every driver has been slowed deliberately for many years to keep taxation income higher.

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“No, I want to pay more tax”

This is one of my favourite responses whenever I get called by wealth management companies*. “Hi Mr Redfern, we can help you pay less tax” they say. “ You do want to pay less tax don’t you?” A brilliant sales technique. As soon you say “Yes” you’ll find it very hard to say “no” to their service. So I evolved a response of always saying “No, I want to pay more tax”.

At first it was a bit of a joke – 5 minutes light relief in a busy day. However, the more these people call the more I actually realised that I actually believe it. I really wouldn’t mind paying more tax. I’d be happy to contribute to doubling the UK’s international aid budget. I would happily handover my hard earned cash to wipe out the debt of every African nation. Of course, there are things I’d rather not be paying for. My share of the Trident submarine replacement will be £80,000 over the next few years – I’d be very pleased to forego that “opportunity”. I’m also not sure that my recent acquisition of big chunks of the banking industry was a great deal. Despite all this I would still prefer to have a better health service, free dental care, a reasonable state pension and no children living in poverty.

It did set me thinking though that there is a win-win. I pay more taxes and the government spends my money more efficiently. That way we all get better services – and those of us who can afford it foot the bill. So come on Mr Darling – I don’t think I am alone in thinking that we could solve many of our countries problems with some timely investment in initiatives and projects that deal with poverty, education and taking climate change seriously. However, we need to believe that you will use it wisely – the evidence of the last few months is not good.

*Of course these wealth management companies cannot be any good anyway. They call me and I have no liquid assets of any description. Pretty rubbish at research, so how will they take care of my money?

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