Top marks to Plain English Campaign: ‘road tax’ & roads funding error deleted

Plain English Campaing 'road tax' error

The other day it was Which? Car magazine; now it’s the Plain English Campaign. Both organisations are sticklers for accuracy yet both are guilty of misleading readers over the use of the phrase ‘road tax’. However, it’s only the Plain English Campaign which admits its error and has done something about it. [UPDATE: Which?Car tweeted to say it will use 'car tax' from now on.]

Last week the Plain English Campaign sent out a press release complaining about confusing road signage. There are too many road signs; some of them are conflicting and, taken as whole, they can cause confusion and distract road users, said the release. All well and good; a perfectly sensible and laudable complaint from an organisation that has been “Fighting for crystal-clear communication since 1979.”

But the release veered off topic and PEC’s founder cited the name for a tax that hasn’t existed since 1937 and she compounded the error by linking ‘road tax’ with expenditure on roads:

Chrissie Maher, founder of Plain English Campaign says, “No doubt installing these signs creates work for people and businesses, and it’s all well intentioned, but not well thought out. Any public information should be given in a way that can be read, understood and dealt with in a single reading.

“It does seem odd spending money on simply labelling the roads and giving unnecessary and distracting messages, when the road tax we pay is needed to make roads safer.”

To PEC’s immense credit, the error was deleted minutes after receipt of an email pointing out the inaccuracy. In fact, not only was the error removed, but the whole press release. This is a shame: the release was a good one. It just needed half a sentence to be removed. PEC manager Tony Maher agreed: “No problem at all – I will check this off with Chrissie and get it altered for you.”

Clearly, the Plain English Campaign wants to be factually correct, and needs to be as it runs the Honesty Mark:

This declaration guarantees that everything in the document is true. In other words, what you see is what you get.

Here’s the letter I sent to the Plain English Campaign this morning and which had worked its magic within a startlingly refreshing 25 minutes.

I’ve always loved your campaign. It does sterling work.

I agree with your sentiments about road signage but would like to point out that ‘road tax’ has not existed since 1937.

In fact, it was given a death blow ten years previously by a well-known MP quoted by Baroness Thatcher on your website: yes, ‘road tax’ was killed off by Winston Churchill.

In your press release the phrase ‘road tax’ can’t be substituted with ‘car tax’ because of another error. You say ‘road tax’ pays for road safety. Not true. Road safety – and roads – are paid for by general and local taxation.

In November last year I created a campaign to lobby organisations which continue to use ‘road tax’ instead of ‘car tax’ or – to be more accurate – Vehicle Excise Duty.

This seems such a minor point to many people but watch this video and you might begin to see why I, and others, get so hot and bothered about people and organisations who use ‘road tax’.

Cyclists are often verbally and physically abused by motorists who believe roads are paid for by ‘road tax’ and that therefore cyclists have less right to be on roads.

Armed with this information, will you be amending your press release and sending out a retraction to the media sources you originally sent it to? As an organisation priding itself on accuracy I would hope this would be the case.

Thanks.

Carlton Reid

  • keithunderdown

    I've just started a Facebook Group—Campaign for Real Pedantry (http://www.facebook.com/?sk=2361831622#!/group….) and so have to take issue with a sentence from the above letter:

    “Cyclists are often verbally and physically abused by motorists who believe roads are paid for by ‘road tax’ and that therefore cyclists have less rights to be on roads.”

    Should be either:

    “Cyclists are often verbally and physically abused by motorists who believe roads are paid for by ‘road tax’ and that therefore cyclists have less right to be on roads.”

    “Cyclists are often verbally and physically abused by motorists who believe roads are paid for by ‘road tax’ and that therefore cyclists have fewer rights to be on roads.”

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_nouns for more explaination.

  • http://www.quickrelease.tv carltonreid

    Top marks to you, too! I've knocked off the offending 's'. Thanks.

  • Pingback: Kylie Batt

  • Edward Curwen

    The DVLA continue to describe the disk supplied when applying for a Vehicle Excise License as a TAX DISK.

    Until the DVLA change their ways then drivers will continue to believe in the term Road Tax.

  • http://www.quickrelease.tv carltonreid

    This is a totally OK usage. It is a tax disc. 'Car tax' is an OK term;
    it's just 'road tax' that's at fault.

  • Edward Curwen

    The DVLA continue to describe the disk supplied when applying for a Vehicle Excise License as a TAX DISK.rnrnUntil the DVLA change their ways then drivers will continue to believe in the term Road Tax.

  • http://www.quickrelease.tv carltonreid

    This is a totally OK usage. It is a tax disc. ‘Car tax’ is an OK term; rnit’s just ‘road tax’ that’s at fault.

  • Pingback: STUART

  • Pingback: bb

  • Pingback: http://www.inspectagadgets.com

  • Pingback: GET THE HOTTEST REVIEWS ON ALL OF THE LATEST GADGETS OUT!!

  • Pingback: SHOP ELECTRONICS!!!

  • James SK

    With motoring taxes earning the treasury u00a345billion last year (and thats only direct taxation) out of which around u00a322billion was spent on transport and about a third of that spent on improving the roads, people dont say ‘our road tax pays for the roads’ the real complaint should be that it doesnt! With the taxes motorists pay in the UK we should have a much better road network, which would benefit everybody, including cyclists who seemingly want motorists to be bled dry whilst receiving nothing in return.

  • K Collins

    If the Government really wants to get rid of the mentality of ‘we pay road tax so we have more right to be on it’ then they need to abolish the charge completely. If it was removed in 1937 and people still dont know then Churchill obviously didnt do a very good job. Changing the name, putting the price up and pretending everythings fine is the sort of nonsense Gordon Brown wouldve been proud of. And dont think about adding it onto petrol either, its already got 150% tax rate on it. Ridiculous.

  • http://www.quickrelease.tv carltonreid

    The price of motoring – in real terms – has never been cheaper. To reduce congestion, prices will have to be in increased, including more tax in fuel, more tax on car ownership and road pricing.

  • http://www.quickrelease.tv carltonreid

    You need to read the rest of the site for the reasons why motorists can’t ask for ‘their’ taxes to pay for their ‘amenities’. Tax doesn’t work like that or we could all opt out of the taxes we don’t like or the government measures we’re not keen on. nWhy do you say cyclists want motorists bled dry? The overwhelming majority of cyclists are car owners.