Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Council debate on congestion tonight

Today is a day of firsts – Not only is it the first day of Gordon Brown’s premiership, but it is also the first full Council meeting of the municipal year. I know which one of those two may make more headlines around the world, but for local people the outcome of tonight’s Council meeting may have significant ramifications.

We will be debating the proposed congestion charge tonight. The Lib Dems have put forward a motion opposing the scheme as utterly inappropriate for Bury, and completely unfair. We are the only group putting forward this motion – both Labour and the Conservatives have proposed amendments to it without being bold enough to call for an end to the mad scheme now.

Let’s be clear on what people are currently being “consulted” on. The government, which claims to be the champion of public transport improvement, will invest billions of pounds in Greater Manchester’s public transport infrastructure over the coming decade, but only if we agree to introduce congestion charging first. No charge = no investment.

So, we’re being held to ransom. Everyone admits that we can’t sit back and do nothing whilst congestion gets worse. But rather than do the right thing and make the investment in our ramshackle public transport network first, and then see if we still have a congestion problem, the government are forcing a staggeringly complicated and wholly illogical congestion charge scheme on us.

As well as the absurd unfairness of a flat rate fee which will force the poor off the roads, the whole scheme is flawed in so many ways, as I’ve discussed before on this blog. It’s not green enough, it’s not clear enough, and it asks more questions than it answers. Like “what about the M60?” “What about the congested district town centres?” And “What about local journeys from Whitefield to Prestwich?”

So that’s what’s behind our motion to Council tonight. We will see if the other parties are as willing to stand up for local people’s rights to decent public transport and fair road use as we are.


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