The Swedish capital had planned to begin a 13-month trial in June. But a legal challenge connected with the complex financial arrangements that are necessary under Sweden’s constitution had put the trial in doubt.
On 30 March the legal challenge was finally rejected, but the time it took to be heard means the trial period will not now start until January. It will run for just seven months until 31 July 2006, with a referendum taking place in September on the same day as the Swedish general election.
T&E’s Swedish board member Magnus Nilsson of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SNF) said: “The reduction in the length of the trial period will probably not affect our ability to measure the effectiveness of the charge. But it will mean much less time to bring in revenue, so if the charge is rejected after the trial period, it will mean much more money for the government to pay out as a shortfall.”
Apart from a local income tax, the Swedish constitution forbids the raising of taxes by anyone other than the national government, and deciding that the money can be used for a specific purpose (“earmarking”) is also not allowed. Therefore, the Stockholm charge has had to be a local initiative taken by the national government, with the equipment procured by the nation, not the city.
When the referendum happens, the result will not be binding on the Swedish parliament, and it may well not be a straight yes:no choice. Nilsson added: “There is discussion about three choices, with one offering straight rejection, and two different versions of acceptance.”
• The Czech government has begun the process that will lead to a motorway toll, by asking for companies to bid to provide tolling technology. Czech officials say the numbers of lorries crossing the Czech-German border has increased from 13 500 in April 2004 (the last month before the country joined the EU) to 70 000 now, which ministers say is largely because the tolls on German, Swiss and Austrian roads make the Czech Republic seem cheap.
This news story is taken from the April 2005 edition of T&E Bulletin.