People denied their say on congestion charging

Date published: 24 April 2008

The people of the Borough have been denied their say on controversial plans to introduce congestion charging in Greater Manchester.

A Conservative motion at last night's Council meeting proposed Rochdale Council holds a borough-wide poll on the congestion charging scheme, however, despite support from the Labour party and sympathy expressed by a couple of Lib Dem councillors, including Lib Dem deputy leader, Councillor Irene Davidson who said she strongly opposed congestion charging, the party whip once again reared its head and Lib Dems voted as instructed to defeat the motion.

The notice of motion proposed by Councillor Ann Metcalfe and seconded by Councillor Theresa Fitzsimons, stated that if the government accepts the Transport Innovation Bid of the Greater Manchester Authorities, the council should ask the Rochdale electorate if they support the combination of congestion charging with investment in public transport.

The motion continued: the poll will be carried out within 35 days of the government's response, unless the bid is rejected outright by the government and there is no prospect of further congestion charging in the forseeable future.

The Labour Party proposed an amendment to change the 35 days to 13 weeks, but otherwise gave their backing.

Lib Dem Council Leader Alan Taylor criticised the motion and also controversially claimed that Peel Holdings were behind this attempt to derail the bid. Councillor Taylor told the meeting: "The motion suggests that a poll be held within 35 days after the Government response has been received, and also that groups such as Peel Holdings should be given a free hand to discredit any proposals. This is preventing the Rochdale electorate being given a balanced view of the issues. It is also getting ahead of itself. The first thing that needs to happen is that we need to know how much the Government are offering, if anything, in their response to our bid, and if that is acceptable, it is written into our bid that there would be widescale public consultation of at least three months before any further decisions were taken, and as Liberal Democrats, we are not opposed to a referendum if that were to be necessary.

"I remind you that our Council agreed to support the submission of the Transport Innovation Bid. Up to now, that's all. We are not committed to accept the Government's response, we are not committed to congestion charging, because we've still not agreed any policy for congestion charging."

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