Azara Blog: One Cambridge businessman thinks the congestion charge is a done deal

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Date published: 2007/09/19

The Cambridge Evening News says:

A leading Cambridge businessman fears proposed consultations will make little difference to the introduction of the controversial congestion charge.

At a meeting hosted by the Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce, Cambridgeshire County Council leader Shona Johnstone and deputy chief executive Brian Smith committed to extensive consultations with local businesses over road toll plans.

But Nick Clarke, chairman of Cambridge's Federation of Small Businesses, said he felt the charge would go ahead whatever after hearing the council's line at a meeting at the city's University Arms hotel.

He said: "I think there will be a greater openness now with businesses, but I do not think the county council is likely to change its view that it has to include the congestion charge as part of its scheme."

He added: "Many people at the meeting felt the congestion charge was a smokescreen hiding the real problem that the infrastructure in Cambridge is not good enough. We need to get our infrastructure correct first, and then if there is still a need to reduce congestion we should consider a charge."

The Government has said it will make £500 million available to Cambridge, but only if the scheme, which could see drivers paying up to £5 to enter or leave the city, is adopted.

Mr Clarke said: "Saying that £500 million would only be available with an inclusion of congestion charge to me sounds like bribery or blackmail. I think if Cambridge needs that infrastructure it should get it anyway, not as a congestion charge."

Clarke is right about the main reason the charge is being introduced now, it's all part of government bribery and blackmail. But other than the usual academic middle class suspects, the only people the Cambridge bureaucrats and politicians do listen to is the business sector. Indeed the business community has already managed to (at least temporarily) sink some of the wackier ideas of the Cambridge so-called transport planners, e.g. the closure of Maid's Causeway. And if it were not for the seriously negative impact it would have on businesses in Cambridge, the city's ruling elite would have long since closed all of Cambridge to cars (except for their own, because of course they need to get around, being the ruling elite, it's just the peasants who should be forced to take the bus or walk or cycle everywhere).

If Clarke has come away with the impression that even the business community is going to be ignored this time around, then Johnstone must have made a particularly bad impression at the meeting, which is another indication that she is up to no good. The ruling elite certainly won't pay any attention to what ordinary citizens say, and perhaps this time around they will indeed also ignore the business community.

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