Congestion-charge boss hits out at business group

Date published: 19 August 2008

THE driving force behind Manchester’s congestion charge has hit back at small business leaders over their opposition.

Manchester City Council chief Sir Howard Bernstein said he was surprised and disappointed at the “bizarre” attitude from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

The group, the UK’s largest business organisation which represents more than 21,000 businesses employing some 210,000 staff, had said it will not compromise on its complete opposition to the scheme.

North West policy chairman Holly Bonfield said 96 per cent of its membership opposed any kind of road pricing and felt it would only add to their costs without any real benefits.

The Transport Innovation Fund (TIF) will see up to £3billion spent on major improvements in public transport, including trams coming into Rochdale. But it will be partly paid for by the congestion charge.

Sir Howard accused the FSB of not reading the detail of the bid.

He stormed: “We have done a lot of meetings with various groups and we don’t expect everyone to agree with everything we say, but we really do expect business organisations to be serious participants in the debate.

“They basically said, as a matter of principle, they would regard it better for their members to sit in traffic because of congestion than look at the alternatives.

“We did not regard them as serious people — they did not come up with any alternatives.”

Ms Bonfield said she did not want to get into a war of words but Sir Howard’s dismissive opinion of the FSB did not help matters.

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