The Speaker of the House of Keys has criticised the government for making it ‘more expensive to be poor’.

Juan Watterson’s comments come after the government has announced that motorists will soon be able to pay six months’ road tax if proposals are approved by Tynwald in its March sitting.

Vehicle duty rates are planned to rise by 10% across most categories from April 2023, says the Department of Infrastructure.

The minimum annual charge will be £65, which will also apply to all electric vehicles.

The six-month payment option is open to all categories and will require motorists to pay generally half the full year’s fee plus £6.

Inflation currently stands at 7.4% in the Isle of Man.

Mr Watterson said: ‘With vehicle duty rising by 10%, affordability will be an issue with many vehicle owners.

‘The six-month payment option has the potential to be a great help to people’s cash flow and budget during difficult times.

‘But how does the department justify charging £6 more for the same license when paying by two instalments?

‘The DoI seems intent on penalising those who can least afford it.’

He added: ‘Once again, the government is making it more expensive to be poorer.’

The six months’ road tax change is included within the Vehicle Duty Order 2023 and, approval pending, will see the amount people pay for road tax rise for the first time since April 2020 as well as the introduction of fees for electric vehicle owners.

Infrastructure Minister Chris Thomas said: ‘The new order contains changes designed to modernise the way vehicle duty is collected and, most importantly, ensure the correct amount is raised to maintain and improve the island’s highway network.

‘Valuable engagement has taken place in preparing the order and to raise fees across every category.

‘I’m sure six-month payments will be welcomed by many in the island, and the team is now working towards introducing direct debits as an additional payment option.

‘While fees are being introduced for electric vehicles, it is important to highlight the department’s commitment to restricting the registration of higher polluting cars and vans through separate legislation that will be brought forward in line with powers included in the Climate Change Act.’

According to the government, in seven years’ time there are likely to be more than 13,000 electric vehicles in the island.

Government support is being provided through the ongoing rollout of a public charging network.

The introduction of fees for electric vehicles is intended as the first step towards ‘harmonising the amount of duty paid by owners of zero emission, hybrid and fossil-fuelled vehicles’, says the Department of Infrastructure.

Income generated through vehicle duty is spent on maintaining and improving the island’s highways.

Raising this type of revenue reflects the aims of Our Island Plan and Economic Strategy through investment in the maintenance of key infrastructure, the government adds.

In addition to the above changes, it’s proposed a rolling 30-year period will be established, after which a vehicle would be regarded as a private veteran vehicle and pay the new £28 annual fee.