Manchester road-pricing plans will be put to public vote

Road charging is a form of indirect taxation which hits working people the hardest. At a time of high inflation, plans to add to people’s cost of living won’t be well recieved.

I’m sure that a majority will reject the proposals, even if the local authorities spend millions of pounds of public money to campaign for their plans, and even if the wording of the referendum is such that people are encouraged to think that it’s all or nothing.

Let’s hope that the use of referenda will be extended in both local and national government across England. It’s not enough to vote in elections for legislators, we must also be able to vote on the legislation itself.

From the BBC website:

The people of Greater Manchester are to decide whether a congestion charge is to be introduced in the region.

The leaders of all 10 authorities met on Friday and unanimously agreed to a public referendum on the issue, likely to be held in December.

If seven out of the 10 Greater Manchester boroughs vote yes the scheme will go ahead.

Government funding for £2.8bn of public transport investment depends on the charge’s introduction in 2013.

Motorists would be charged for crossing the M60 and a second ring around the city centre at peak times.

The decision was reached by the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) on Friday.

Residents of all 10 boroughs will vote yes or no to one question, it was confirmed, although the wording is yet to be agreed.

Lord Peter Smith, leader of AGMA said: “Today’s news is an important step forward for the people of Greater Manchester who now have an opportunity to vote on one of the most important decisions this city region has seen for decades.

“People will have their say on whether they want to say yes to a transformed public transport system in Greater Manchester including a congestion charge to ensure their region can continue to prosper.

“It is all or nothing.”

Although welcoming the poll, campaign group National Alliance Against Tolls (NAAT) said it had doubts about the fairness of the campaign.

“Any sort of vote is considerably better than the scheme being bulldozed through by the authorities,” said spokesman John McGoldrick.

Tram expansion

But he said the resulting vote was likely to be held under section 116 of the Local Government Act 2003, which he argued would not be a true referendum.

“These polls are not subject to any rules and it means that the authorities can continue to spend millions on their promotion campaign,” added Mr McGoldrick.

Transport bosses said the investment would be split across 30 different public transport schemes across Greater Manchester’s 10 boroughs.

They have pledged to have at least 80% of the improvements in place before the charge is introduced in 2013.

These will include the Metrolink extension to Ashton-under-Lyne, Manchester Airport, Rochdale town centre and Oldham town centre.

Extra trains and buses and improved stations have also been promised.

A consultation on the scheme is currently taking place and feedback from the public will shape the final package that will be put to a vote, AGMA said.

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2 Responses to “Manchester road-pricing plans will be put to public vote”

  1. secretperson Says:

    I too applaud the use of referenda. But what I don’t understand is why national government funding for transport is dependent on introducing a congestion charge. I understand some of it is to pay back this “investment” as a loan, but what loan shark normally determines how the money to be paid back is raised?

    It just looks like bribery and undermines local accountability. Surely if they provide fast, reliable and cheap, public transport people will naturally take it. Especially if the congestion is so bad it requires a charge.

    The literature sent out in Manchester is very much pro-charge. I hope your predicition of a rejection is true, but any No campaign will be up against it.

  2. charliemarks Says:

    I agree with you that it looks like bribery – but, hey, that’s New Labour for you, so it will be bribery. Road pricing is the policy of central government – despite it’s unfairness and resulting unpopularity – and since it is difficult for local authorities to act independently, the result is the local implementation of central government policy.

    As we have seen recently in Ireland with the EU treaty, referenda have a way of ruining the plans of elites…


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