Manchester City Council must want their collective heads read. They want to introduce a congestion charge into a city that compared to London is not congested at all. Indeed, over the last four years, congestion has fallen! It's clearly just a scam to fleece both individuals and businesses of yet more of their hard earned money. But they might not get their own way. A cross party anti congestion charge campaign was launched this morning, which will hopefully see this madcap scheme consigned to history. Just to show how madcap it actually is, if introduced it would cover an area of 80 square miles - London's scheme is only 8 square miles.
The Stop the Charge Coalition is a cross-party group of Greater Manchester MPs, council leaders and 256 businesses joining forces to campaign for a No Vote in the December referendum. The proposed scheme could cost people up to £1200 a year in a city where the average wage after tax is £14,000. On top of this it will saddle local councils with a debt of £1.2 billion to pay for the scheme - at a time when the local (Labour) councils are cutting services and staff.
MPs Graham Stringer, Graham Brady, Andrew Gwynne, Andrew Stunnel, Mark Hunter, Barbara Keeley and Jim Dobbin, together with the leaders of Stockport and Trafford Councils, have joined local businesses to form the Stop the Charge coalition.
Business members of the coalition include major employers and brand names such as: Kellogg’s, Makro, Harvey Nichols, United Biscuits, Speedy Hire Plc, Peel Holdings, Hydes Brewery, Unilever and partnerships and soles traders as well as the Federation of Small Business and shop stewards.
To say the current proposed scheme is deeply flawed is a gross understatement. Essentially, Manchester City Council have been bribed by the DfT into running with this scheme and acting as a guinea pig before forcing congestion schemes on other towns and cities. Included in the bid documents are no guarantees on charging times, pricing, revenue streams or zone boundaries. It really is back of the fag packet stuff.
Finally, the question has already been released and yes, you've guessed it - no mention of the congestion charge in the wording only of 'transport improvements'. Shocking stuff.