Missions owe £23m in unpaid CC charges

Foreign embassies refusing to pay London’s congestion charge have accrued a bill in excess of £23m.

The figures emerged in a written answer to the London Assembly by Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, who has said diplomats refusing to pay the £8 charge “lacked decency”.

The US tops the league of non-paying missions, owing more than £2.7m since the charge was introduced in February 2003. The Russian embassy owes more than £1.8m, while the Japanese embassy is a close third with £1.77m.

More than 120 missions owe £1.76 million in unpaid charges, which include the £8 flat rate charge and extra penalties for late payment.

The mountain of outstanding debts totalling £23.12 million will fuel an ongoing feud between Transport for London and London’s diplomatic missions, which claim that the congestion charge is a local tax from which they are exempt under the Vienna Conventions.

The view of the Foreign Office and Transport for London is that the Congestion Charge is a “charge for a service rendered” which is permissible under the Vienna Conventions, meaning that diplomats are not exempt.

Boycotting the charge has put London’s diplomats on a collision course with the new London Mayor, who has called the stand-off “an unbelievable scandal.”

Johnson said he wanted to “slap an asbo on every single diplomat who fails to pay” but that international law prevented him from doing so.

He also revealed that he had been in discussions with the Swiss Embassy, which was trying to broker a compromise deal. “The Swiss typically have come forward with trying to broker some kind of deal,” he said, adding: “I’m very keen that whatever deal we do should reflect the fact that these people are using London’s roads. This is not a tax, this is a charge for the use of our roads, and I believe the diplomatic community should have the decency to pay it. I intend to stick to that decision.”