As motorists, we get used to the ‘bust & boom’ nature of owning a car; hit with taxes, hit with taxes, and hit with taxes, with some light relief of “actually, you car driving people deserve a break”. Of course, the cycle usually follows a strict pattern – the timing of a general election.

Some candidates are telling us that they ‘vow to end rip-off NHS parking charges’, while others promise to end the blight that is potholes and poor roads. One in particular is mixing it up and offering to tackle both problems. To a degree.

But is it all pie in the sky thinking? A cheap trick to woo us?

Pothole repairs

The Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA), whose members are primarily responsible for filling in potholes, states that £9.79bn is needed over the next ten years to bring our roads up to scratch, and that typically, UK drivers need to spend around £4bn every year on getting their car fixed due to damage caused by potholes.

The problem is so bad, that 56% of motorists have said that their car has been damaged at least once, and 28% of drivers have had an accident or near miss because of a pothole, a further 15% have had a tyre blowout after being damaged by a pothole.

Clearly, a strategy for fixing potholes is much needed, but the very obvious question needing to be asked is where would the money come from? Further taxation? We already pay tax on top of tax in the form of fuel duty, and then of course we have VED and numerous other stealth taxes.

With £2bn of money being promised as part of the Government national infrastructure strategy, there may just be enough to scratch the surface (but not fix it).

For a simple representation of the problem, which is said to amount to a 33km depth hole, has put together a simple animation of what that means, along with a handy guide on how to claim for pothole damage to your car.

NHS parking charges

Both of the primary candidates have promised to tackle excessive NHS parking charges, albeit in slightly different forms – one is offering a complete abolition of car parking charges, the other wants to offer free parking for certain groups – terminally ill, frequent visitors to the outpatients dept., NHS nightshift workers and the disabled ‘blue badge’ holders (169 NHS trusts charge blue badge holders for parking).

Depending on the source used, we know that patients, visitors and staff coughed up around £272m for car parking in NHS facilities in 2018, with £86m of that being paid by the NHS staff and workers, and £950,000 being made up of fines for parking offences.

While it’s acknowledged that the NHS trusts are responsible for setting their own parking fees, the issue is somewhat clouded by the fact that not all of the trusts receive all (or any) of the money. More often, the trust uses a third-party operator to run the parking, and of course costs very between operators, and for once, it doesn’t seem to follow the North / South divide.

Manchester’s University NHS foundation trust topped the bill for revenue generated – just over £6m being distributed almost equally between public and staff, and the University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire claimed second spot, with just under £6m – £5,992,849 (just £2m for the staff).

Some politicians are calling it a “tax on sickness”.

Cheap vote winners

Being a motorist during a run up to an election is about the only time that we can feel valued, or at least considered, rather than the devil incarnate for having the audacity to use a private vehicle (even more so if it’s fuelled by unleaded or diesel).

But these promises made to us are nothing short of cheap tactics to win a vote, and anyone that bases their decision purely on the points raised will be in for bitter disappointment when the votes are counted and the next incumbent sits. That’s not to say that it’s all fantasy, but just that I for one won’t be holding my breath.

It’s all very well promising untold fortunes for the benefit of the motorist, but the simple reality is that many local authorities are on the verge of financial collapse, and any ‘spare’ money has long been accounted for. Any extra monies promised will either leave a deficit somewhere else, or have to be raised from further taxation, and as it’s for the motorists benefit, you can be sure that it will be the motorist paying for it.

What are your thoughts on NHS parking charges? How should the government (whoever that may be) fund these extra initiatives? Would you pay an extra tax for better roads? Let us know in the comments.

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