American diplomats racked up more than £300,000 in unpaid congestion charge fines during 2017, The Independent can reveal.
The value of unpaid levies averaged almost £1,000 per day since January, analysis of Transport for London (TfL) figures shows.
It brings the total owed by the US embassy to £11.9m, equating to tens of thousands of tickets. TfL said outstanding debt from all embassies stood at £108.6m as of 30 September.
The congestion charge was first introduced in February 2003 to reduce traffic in central London and encourage the use of alternative transport. A discount is available for some low-emission vehicles.
TfL insists it is a charge for a service, not a tax from which diplomats are exempt. The authority said a “stubborn minority” of embassies “refuse” to pay it.
General manager Paul Cowperthwaite added: “We continue to pursue all unpaid congestion charge fees and related penalty charge notices.”
The Foreign Office told The Independent its protocol chief raised the issue with every new ambassador but declined to say whether it would be mentioned anew during President Donald Trump’s eventual visit to the UK.
The standard penalty charge notice (PCN) for not handing over the £11.50 congestion charge is £130. After 28 days this can rise to £195, meaning that figures provided to The Independent covering 1 January to 6 December 2017 may also encompass debts incurred in the last weeks of Barack Obama’s administration.
In that period diplomats added £317,265 in congestion charge debt from 2,633 penalties of which all but 31 are outstanding, averaging £933.13 per day.
This year’s US embassy debt could pay for one brand-new hybrid double-decker bus.
Rounding out the top five non-payers over the past 15 years were Japan with £7,911,210 of debt, Nigeria with £6,661,680, Russia with £5,639,200 and India with £5,290,970 as of 30 September.
Since his inauguration Mr Trump has moved to ensure the US is…