The congestion charge has run into some serious opposition in England lately. It's the charge on drivers entering the central core which has been such a success in cutting down traffic in London and other big cities. The first defeat was a decision by voters in Greater Manchester to reject the charge by an overwhelming majority. Four out of every five voters voted no to the scheme to charge £5 a day at peak times. It's a shame because the federal government was offering generous tax and loan incentives which would have been put back into improving public transport.
It seems to have been a vote against extra or "stealth" taxing. It was quite an audacious proposal as it would have covered 80 square miles. Drivers would have had electronic tags fitted to their cars and the charge would have been deducted automatically as cars passed sensors marking out an inner and an outer ring around the city. It would have cost £5 whilst London drivers pay a flat rate of £8.
In London itself, the new Mayor, Boris Johnson, has scrapped the unpopular extension of the congestion charge into the Kensington Chelsea area. Following a public consultation exercise in which the mayor promised to "listen to the people of London", he announced that the extension initiated by the former mayor will be cancelled by 2010.
Almost 28,000 people took part in the 5-week consultation. The majority opposition was by businesses, while 19% said that they wanted the extension kept as it is, and 12% supported changing the scheme to improve the way that it operated.
Some people are questioning whether this kind of public initiative should be the subject of a vote at all. The London congestion charge was implemented by the former Mayor without a vote and has been a great success, despite the fears of business. The defeat in Manchester has now caused the cities of Cambridge, Bristol and Leeds to reconsider their proposals for a charge. The Independent and The Guardian
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