Political leaders unite to fight congestion charge plans

Cllr Alan Sharp at the county council meeting on March 15.

A motion at Cambridgeshire County Council on March 15, proposed by Cllr Alan Sharp opposing the introduction of congestion charging was voted down by the coalition. - Credit: CCC

Political leaders across Cambridgeshire have united to fight plans to introduce a congestion charge in Cambridge.

A congestion charge is one of the suggestions made by the Greater Cambridge Partnership to raise funds for improvements to public transport, and reduce congestion in the city. 

However, Conservative leaders from across Cambridgeshire have written to the chairman and vice-chairman of the Partnership calling for them to publicly declare that the Liberal Democrat and Labour run Greater Cambridge Partnership Board to drop the plans "without delay".

They also ask the Board for confirmation that they will not contemplate charging while there are no real "reliable and affordable local transport alternatives in place".

The charge has been dubbed a "stealth tax" and it is estimated it could cost those who work in Cambridge, but live outside the area, £3,600 a year.

A motion at Cambridgeshire County Council on March 15, proposed by Cllr Alan Sharp (Conservative), also opposing the introduction of congestion charging was voted down by the coalition.

Liberal Democrat and Labour councillors have refuse to take congestion charging off the table. 

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Cllr Ryan Fuller, leader of Huntingdonshire District Council, said: "Thousands of Huntingdonshire residents require access to Cambridge on a daily basis for reasons such as work, education and healthcare.

Ryan Fuller is the leader of Huntingdonshire District Council.

Ryan Fuller is the leader of Huntingdonshire District Council. - Credit: HDC

"Many of our residents also like to visit Cambridge for leisure, culture and entertainment or to visit family and friends. Whilst parts of our district enjoy good public transport connections to Cambridge, Huntingdonshire is a large primarily rural area with many communities facing limited, or in some cases, no access to public transport, meaning that car ownership is a necessity, not a choice.”

"Of course, we support moves to improve public transport and make it easier for people to travel via means other than their car but the introduction of what is effectively a stealth tax on car drivers is not the way to achieve it. Congestion charges such as this unduly penalise the very people who can least afford it; whilst those who can afford to pay will continue to use their cars.”

“It is abhorrent that Huntingdonshire’s Liberal Democrat and ‘independent’ councillors voted to defeat our Conservative motion which would have ruled out the introduction of this additional financial burden on Huntingdonshire’s residents. 

Labour councillor Elisa Meschini has said there is not a congestion charge scheme currently "on the table" and "the question was just being asked".