Well, Boris Johnson kept his promise to confront Barack Obama over unpaid congestion charges incurred by US embassy staff. We’d love to be able to report that he presented the President with an invoice on his departure but the mayor describes the conversation as ‘friendly’.
The mayor also said that the presidential motorcade is not exempt from the C-Charge and they will be receiving a bill for their visit to London. Given that the US administration have repeatedly refused to cough up the cash, we assume the latest charges will simply be tacked on to the £5.5m already owed. God may have been on the Pope’s side over C-Charge exemptions but He doesn’t appear to be on Obama’s – London’s roads remained open for the Popemobile so the charge applies.
The whole thing seems to rather boil down to semantics. As Dave Hill points out, Boris’s opposition to the C-Charge when it was first imposed by Ken Livingstone has rather backfired. He referred to it as a tax and the US embassy have taken him at his word. The standoff looks set to continue unless TfL decide to seek a legal ruling over the definition of a tax or the Americans back down. The latter is unlikely and the former could be an expensive political hot potato for the coalition government.
With the US embassy moving outside the congestion-charging zone, albeit not until 2017, we wonder if Boris will embark on a pre-emptive strike and extend the zone south-west.