2 Jul, 2024 @ 16:22
1 min read

Chaos in Gibraltar: ‘Pollution tax’ that would have cost drivers an extra £520 per year sparks protests – forcing Fabian Picardo into embarrassing U-turn just two hours after announcing policy

Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo, leaves the Cabinet office in Westminster, London.

GIBRALTAR’S Chief Minister Fabian Picardo was forced into an embarrassing U-turn on Monday afternoon after a Budget proposal for a new pollution levy sparked an angry public backlash.

Over 500 protestors rallied outside Number Six Convent Place, the Chief Minister’s official residence, forcing officers from the Royal Gibraltar Police to temporarily close Main Street.

Demonstrators chanted ‘Picardo Out!’, beeped horns and blocked pathways as public anger spiraled in the aftermath of the announcement.

Earlier on Monday, Picardo revealed in his annual Budget a new pollution levy that would force drivers owning a vehicle aged over 10 years old, which is not deemed to be a classic, to pay a weekly pollution levy of £10, equating to £520 a year.

READ MORE: ‘Untrue rumours’: Gibraltar’s Fabian Picardo blasts suggestions he will resign if a post-Brexit treaty with Spain is agreed

Social media users described the move as ‘exacerbating economic inequality’, ‘grossly unfair’, ‘not only discrimination but oppressive’ and ‘daylight robbery’.

Many argued that the move would disproportionately impact older people and those with less disposable income and who could not afford newer, more eco-friendly vehicles including EVs (electric vehicles) and hybrids. 

Conversely, whilst import duty for fully electric vehicles will remain at zero, full hybrids will be charged 5%, and mild hybrids will be charged a 10% levy.

Just two hours after revealing his Budget, Picardo climbed down from his pollution levy proposal in an interview with GBC News, the Rock’s state broadcaster.

He claimed that the proposal would not have applied to students, pensioners, the unemployed and those on low incomes in any case, but had decided to allow the Ministry of Transport to head a consultation instead of proceeding with the new levy after seeing the public reaction.

Keith Azopardi, leader of the opposition and head of the Social Democrats, described the fiasco as a ‘shambles’ and ‘a really really bad idea’ that would ‘hit low-income families and pensioners and people on modest incomes harder than anybody else’. 

Together Gibraltar, a progressive political party formed in 2018, said: “This policy showed that the government continues to insist on making broad changes that will affect thousands of Gibraltarians with no consultation, stakeholder management, or awareness of life on a tight budget”. 

Picardo’s proposed levy may be linked to the McGrail Inquiry, the high-stakes testimonial into the early retirement of former police chief Ian McGrail, which the GSLP leader revealed had cost the taxpayer a whopping £4,120,884 so far.

Elsewhere, the Chief Minister announced that electricity tariffs will increase by 2.6%, the cap on social insurance will rise by 5%, personal tax will return to 25% and the minimum wage will rise by 30p to £8.90 an hour.

Picardo also ruled out using borrowing to fund public sector pay increases, and said all fees payable to the government, such as licence fees, would increase in line with inflation.

Ben Pawlowski

Ben joined the Olive Press in January 2024 after a four-month stint teaching English in Paraguay. He loves the adrenaline rush of a breaking news story and the tireless work required to uncover an eye-opening exclusive. He is currently based in Barcelona from where he covers the city, the wider Catalunya region, and the north of Spain. Send tips to ben@theolivepress.es

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