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‘No congestion charge for Birmingham, and that’s final’, promises Clancy

‘No congestion charge for Birmingham, and that’s final’, promises Clancy

🕔16.Feb 2016

The Labour leader of Birmingham city council has repeated a pledge that he has no intention of introducing a congestion charge on vehicles entering the city centre after opposition Tories claimed the idea was being sneaked through for 2017-18.

John Clancy vehemently denied there were any plans to impose a London-style levy on any vehicle passing across the inner ring road into the central city core.

But the council will introduce a Clean Air Zone across the city centre where drivers of goods vehicles not meeting exhaust emissions guidelines would have to pay a charge. Cars will be exempt from any charges.

Cllr Clancy pointed out that clean air zones were being pushed by the Government and that the city council could face fines of £60 million a year if it failed to act.

It is proposed a clean air zone will 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.

The council’s 2016-17 budget papers set out what is proposed, although do not mention specifically a clean air zone:

The council will design and develop a modern transport network for the city in order to help develop attractive shopping areas, promote greener forms of transport and improve the environment.

We propose to reduce the reliance on car trips and improve air quality. These will be underpinned by a ‘nudge’ communications campaign to change travel behaviour and switch trips to other modes of transport.

The impact will be reduced by the nudge programme which will promote and communicate transport options to enable individuals and businesses to have choice on 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.

Supplementary papers published by the council last December made it clear a congestion charge was being considered:

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.

Cllr Clancy ruled out a congestion charge at the time, just days after becoming council leader, and said the proposal had been placed in a draft budget by former council leader Sir Albert Bore.

A spokesman said:

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.

Conservative councillors are adamant a congestion charge will be brought forward by Labour next year.

Tory group leader Robert Alden pointed out that the projected income stream to the council from a congestion charge remains in the 2016-17 budget, which was approved by the cabinet today.

Cllr Alden said:

The new council leader said a congestion charge wasn’t something he would consider. But the congestion charge is still in the savings books.

Cllr Alden claimed the council was preparing to spend £700,000 setting up congestion charging and that the scheme would be up and running by 2018.

Development, transport and economy cabinet member Cllr Tahir Ali said Cllr Alden appeared to be confused by the clean air zone which he had mistaken for a congestion charge.

Addressing the Conservative leader, Cllr Ali said:

You want cheap headlines, but this is not a congestion charge and it will not apply to private cars. A congestion charge is ruled out.

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