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Clancy ‘to scrap’ controversial Birmingham congestion charge plan

Clancy ‘to scrap’ controversial Birmingham congestion charge plan

🕔11.Dec 2015

Birmingham council leader John Clancy will step in and scrap controversial plans to impose a congestion charge on all vehicles entering the city centre.

Embarrassingly for Clancy, the proposal along with a plan to set up a clean air zone and charge drivers of polluting HGVs to enter the city centre, is contained in supplementary papers for the 2016-17 council budget which he launched this week.

Sources close to Cllr Clancy said the congestion charge and clean air zone proposals were put into the budget plan at an early stage under the direction of former council leader Sir Albert Bore, who resigned on December 1.

One source said:

Most of the 2016-17 council budget bears the hallmark of Sir Albert. John only came in at the last moment and his influence has been on overall figures rather than fine detail.

There is absolutely no chance at all of John pushing forward with congestion zone or clean air charges. This type of thing won’t feature in the 2017-18 budget consultation papers and it isn’t going to happen in 2016-17 either.

Gleeful Conservative councillors seized on the possibility of Birmingham becoming the second major British city after London to impose a congestion charge, accusing Labour of using “stealth tactics” to push the scheme in through the back door.

A similar proposal for Birmingham, as well as workplace parking charge, was put forward by Labour in the early 2000s, but never got off the drawing board following a backlash from businesses.

Details of proposals to levy two sets of charges on drivers are revealed in supplementary consultation documents issued to support the 2016-17 council budget plans.

A clean air zone is planned to cover four square miles of the city centre. An estimated 20,000 drivers of HGVs and other heavily polluting vehicles would have to pay a set fee to enter the zone.

In addition, a separate congestion charge will be levied on all vehicles entering the central zone with a proposal that the inner ring road should form the boundary.

It is claimed the charging proposals would raise £5 million a year for the council.

Furious Conservative councillors have condemned the proposals as an attack on motorists and the business community.

Tories accused Labour of “hiding” the congestion charge proposal in a 90-page supplementary budget report which was not made available to the media at the budget briefing.

Labour councillor Lisa Trickett, who holds the green, smart and sustainable cabinet portfolio, failed to mention plans to charge motorists when questioned about the clean air zone at a press conference.

Asked specifically by Chamberlain Files about how the zone would work, Cllr Trickett did not explain that drivers of HGVs would be charged to enter the city centre, but said they would be “encouraged” to go round the edge.

She failed to mention at all plans for a congestion charge.

The supplementary budget paper states:

There is the opportunity to introduce a Clean Air Zone to encourage people to change their behaviour and adopt low emissions vehicles.

The proposal is to introduce a clean air zone introduced to cover the four square miles of the city centre. As an indication, almost 20,000 goods vehicles travel into the city in the morning peak, nearly 13 per cent of all traffic.

A key action of Birmingham Connected is to encourage the most polluting heavy diesel vehicles driving into Birmingham to become cleaner. It could operate 24 hours a day, every day of the year, including weekends and public and Bank Holidays.

By reducing traffic pollution, the aim is to improve the health and quality of life of everyone visiting, working in or living in Birmingham city centre.

The highway network has a finite amount of capacity and despite recent and planned improvements significant congestion is experienced during the peak periods. There can also be significant disruption and congestion during incidents due to limited resilience in the network. West Midlands wide delays on the highway network are estimated to cost £2.2 billion per annum in lost productivity.

The proposal is to charge vehicles that enter the zone at particular times (to be determined, but potentially the ring road). This will be in addition to the charge some vehicles may need to pay for entering the Clean Air Zone.

Road users and businesses would be consulted on the proposals, including the scope of the proposed zones, the vehicles to be covered by a charge and where appropriate the hours they would be in effect.

Conservative opposition leader Cllr Robert Alden said:

Labour’s plan to introduce a congestion charge on vehicles coming into Birmingham, is an unnecessary tax on residents of and visitors”.

They are suggesting the congestion charge would start at the inner ring road, however previous attempts to introduce this included an outer charge as you passed the M5 and M6 motorway as well.

It is very disappointing to see the council trying to sneak out such a serious change in the supplementary pages of this consultation. The Conservative group has serious concerns about the impact of a congestion charge on Birmingham.

With the low emissions zone charge combined with a congestion charge, there is a real risk of businesses and visitors avoiding Birmingham altogether rather than pay £10-20 a day, on the way in and on the way out of the city.

Sadly when you have Labour councillors telling residents they shouldn’t drive cars, as one did in a council debate last year, it was only a matter of time before they put their anti-car ideology before residents and tried to introduce congestion charging.

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