Porsche is set for a £400,000 pay-out following London Mayor Boris Johnson’s decision to scrap plans for a £25 congestion charge on gas-guzzling cars coming into central London. The luxury carmaker was so incensed by the plan (put forward by ex-mayor Ken Livingstone) that it immediately launched a legal battle, and now the scheme has been canned, a court ruled yesterday that the Greater London Authority must cover all its costs.
The news didn’t exactly come as a surprise: scrapping the plan had been one of Boris’s key manifesto commitments before the Mayoral elections, so it was only going to be a matter of time before he kicked it into touch. He claimed it would have a harmful effect on small businesses and families that lived in the congestion charge zone (not surprisingly, he didn’t mention the Ferrari and Porsche drivers of Mayfair who would also benefit, although we imagine they were an equally important target demographic for his campaign…)
Johnson also had the backing of a study that suggested the proposed new scheme wouldn’t actually decrease emissions, because it also allowed the lowest-polluting cars to come into the zone for free. The end result could have been more cars on the roads – which does seem to defeat the point of a congestion charge slightly. (Although it’s not entirely clear to us why he couldn’t just scrap that part of the plan, while keeping the hike for gas-guzzlers…)
Not everyone’s happy about the decision, as you’d expect. The green lobby is up in arms that the Mayor has apparently caved in to the demands of a very wealthy manufacturer of gas-guzzlers. ‘This is a mayor who is telling us he wants to see value for money, and here he is paying one of the richest car companies in the world hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money,’ harrumphed Green Party assembly member Jenny Jones to the Guardian yesterday.
Generally speaking, luxury carmakers and their clientele don’t tend to attract widespread sympathy, so it’s no surprise Porsche has tried to avoid bad PR by giving the money to children’s charity Skidz (Johnson welcomed this as ‘a generous decision’, but in reality it could hardly do anything else). Although Porsche could probably have done with the cash – last week it admitted that its North American sales are down nearly 15% for the year to date, and we can’t imagine it’s flogging as many sports cars on this side of the pond either.
Still – as the credit crunch bites, how nice that supercar owners still get to drive round London for £8 a day. Good to see the powers-that-be targeting their support at those who need it most...