There’s been a massive furore here in the UK recently over the Government’s proposal to introduce a road pricing scheme based on satellite tracking technology. Nearly 1.8 million people signed an on-line petition (see here: http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/traveltax/) objecting to the governments proposals, and with the poll now closed the Prime Minister emailed everyone who took part with his response. Not surprisingly, such a massive email distribution was treated as spam by many email programs including Hotmail (see here: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/02/21/blairs_email_roads/), so it wasn’t until I looked in my junk mail folder that I found it! Not to worry, the PM has posted his response anyway (here: http://www.pm.gov.uk/output/Page11050.asp).
The thing that bugs me though is that the Government is proposing to ignore public opinion and forge ahead with this controversial scheme anyway. I understand that something has to be done to counteract the chronic congestion we suffer here in the UK, and believe me, as an IT consultant I get caught up in it more often that not – just ask anyone that uses the Eastbound M4 from Reading to London on a regular basis, so in principal I am not against road pricing. But when you take into account that we already pay some of the highest taxes on our petrol in Europe (I think the only country where it is higher is Norway) and we already pay an annual road tax, you could argue that we are already paying enough traffic related taxes in the first place. And the Government has not given any firm commitment to reduce any of these other taxes when road charging is introduced either, so we will be paying even more taxes that will not go towards maintaining the road network but will simply be used to prop up the Governments finances (as is the case with the current annual road tax license).
But the single biggest issue is the fact that regardless of what Tony Blair and his cronies say, every single car will be able to be tracked and located due to the use of this satellite tracking technology, meaning that your location will be known to the authorities at all times. Big Brother eat your heart out! It would also be extremely easy to monitor the average speed of a vehicle along various points of it’s journey and automatically issue a speeding ticket if the current speed limit is breached. The Government denies that the system will be used for these purposes, but only yesterday they admitted that the proposed national ID card database could be used by the authorities to search for information relating to unsolved crimes (such as fingerprints), when they had previously stated that the database would not be used for such "fishing" expeditions. How can we trust the Government when their reputation for truth and honesty is already in tatters (Iraq and the "dodgy dossier" anyone?)?
All this stuff is very worrying. We currently have a government that is interfering more and more with our daily lives and is doing it’s utmost to implement policies that the public simply does not want!
And what about the cost? It is going to cost billions to implement this road pricing scheme. The national ID card database is also going to cost billions. The NHS is already costing us billions and look at how badly that has been managed! The Government’s record on large IT infrastructure projects is appalling and none of this stuff is infallible. I’m certain that when the ID card scheme comes in, there will be cases of rough justice where someone is fingered for a crime they did not commit because they had a fingerprint stored in the ID database that was similar to one found at a crime scene.
Along with the road pricing scheme and national ID card scheme, we also have a huge army (I read it was 4000!) of housing inspectors being trained to re-assess the value of our homes for council tax purposes, and features such as double glazing, conservatories and simply living in a low crime area will be taken into account and will no doubt cause a rise in valuations and subsequent council tax demands. So as well as paying the proposed road pricing charges, I will also be paying higher council taxes.
But it doesn’t end there – if you want to sell your house, from the middle of this year you will have to hire an inspector to assess your home for energy efficiency and provide this information to any prospective purchasers, so again the Government is meddling in my life.
We already have the greatest number of CCTV cameras per capita of Europe, recording our every move, and with more and more Government interference in our lives we are becoming a police state – some people would argue we are already there. George Orwell’s vision in 1984 has pretty much been implemented.
Why can’t the Government just leave us alone?