The future of road pricing is in the balance, with towns and cities across Britain awaiting the result of Manchester’s referendum tomorrow before deciding whether to press ahead with pay-as-you-drive schemes.I just bet it has….
The level of response to the postal-only vote in areas of the city where congestion charging is unpopular, such as Trafford and Tameside, has alarmed supporters of the scheme.
A “no” vote would be highly embarrassing for the Government, which has created a £2 billion fund dedicated to supporting local charging schemes.If they don’t get a ‘Yes’ vote, anyone want to bet when they’ll run this exercise again? Having first removed the inconvenient ‘majority’ clause, of course:
Cambridge, Bristol and Leeds are considering schemes but are unlikely to proceed if the result in Manchester, which is to be announced at midday tomorrow, is negative.
A simple majority in favour of charging may not be sufficient because the ten local authorities in Greater Manchester have agreed that the scheme will go ahead only if it is supported by a majority of voters in at least seven council areas.Yeah, I bet that agreement is quietly dropped next time.
Geoff Hoon, the Transport Secretary, was accused of trying to bully Manchester into accepting congestion charging by stating that it would not get a penny of the £1.5 billion if it voted no. “There is no Plan B. I would not want people to be under any illusion about that,” he said.‘Nice little place you got here, Mancunians. Be a shame if something happened to it, eh..?’
The Yes campaign argues that only one person in ten would pay the charge. However, at least one driver would pay in a third of households.Statistics – you can bend ‘em how you want, can’t you?
Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, urged people to vote yes, saying they had a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to put Greater Manchester in the premier league for public transport”. Opponents of the scheme pointed out that Sir Alex lived in Cheshire and would not be voting.Ah, yet another ‘celebrity’ who sees fit to tell others how they should live, knowing full well it won’t affect him…
Update: Manchester to Congestion Charge Enthusiasts:"No thanks". Let the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments commence!