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BBC host major debate on Cambridge Congestion Charge

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Billed as ‘the big debate’ the issue of a congestion charge for Cambridge airs on an extended 45-minute episode of BBC One Politics East on Sunday at 10am.

The debate was recorded at the Perse School, Cambridge, on Friday evening.

Highlights will feature on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire from 5pm on Monday.

For the TV debate on Cambridge Congestion Charge, the BBC hand picked an audience of around 50 to quiz a panel. PHOTO: Neil Mackay

For the TV debate on Cambridge Congestion Charge, the BBC hand picked an audience of around 50 to quiz a panel. PHOTO: Neil Mackay

And if you miss any of that, you can catch it on BBC iPlayer.

The congestion charge proposals were first released last year.

Greater Cambridge Partnership is considered imposing a £5 a day charge for driving within the city from 7am to 7pm.

For the TV debate on Cambridge Congestion Charge, the BBC hand picked an audience of around 50 to quiz a panel. PHOTO: Neil Mackay

For the TV debate on Cambridge Congestion Charge, the BBC hand picked an audience of around 50 to quiz a panel. PHOTO: Neil Mackay

It has provoked widespread opposition, with Cambridge Conservatives describing it as “simply unacceptable at a time where hardworking people and families are grappling with a cost-of-living crisis.

“While we recognise the need for a sustainable solution for travel within Cambridge, it cannot be achieved through the imposition of punitive charges.

“Conservatives will not stand by while working people are charged to drive around their own city and we will continue to stand up for our community and fight against any proposed congestion charges.”

Cambridgeshire Residents Group has attracted over 10,000 signatures on a petition opposed to the charge.

For the TV debate on Cambridge Congestion Charge, the BBC hand picked an audience of around 50 to quiz a panel. PHOTO: Neil Mackay

For the TV debate on Cambridge Congestion Charge, the BBC hand picked an audience of around 50 to quiz a panel. PHOTO: Neil Mackay

“Our group believes this to be an ill-considered scheme that will cause untold hardship and inconvenience for the majority of our community within the city and beyond,” it says.

“The only way to stop this is by petitioning for a referendum. Section 116 of the Local Government Act 2003 enables the council to undertake a referendum.”

 

Some relevant links:

‘Cambridgeshire Residents Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/492989112720644

Petition against the Congestion Charge: https://cambridgeshire.cmis.uk.com/ccc_live/ePetitions/tabid/115/ID/60/-Petition-demanding-referendum-to-decide-on-congestion-charge-for-Cambridge.aspx?fbclid=IwAR24G2Uj1UPL6VVWIwhGwwvytz_23VxRsUaJgeaW0L55cfKv36Fqm_755kE

‘Mill Road Traders’ Association’ https://millroadtraders.wordpress.com/about/

 

If the congestion charge were go to ahead – and we’re a long way off from that decision – the GCP says bus fares would be reduced too.

There would be a blanket charge of £1 to travel within the city, and £2 within a ‘travel to work’ area.

If congestion charge does go ahead, the Greater Cambridge Partnership could raise £50m a year.

This would be spent on improving the bus network, and walking and cycling facilities.

And it could also cut traffic in Cambridge city centre by 50 per cent.

For the TV debate on Cambridge Congestion Charge, the BBC hand picked an audience of around 50 to quiz a panel that included:

Lucy Frazer (Conservative) – MP for South East Cambridgeshire

Daniel Zeichner (Labour) – MP for Cambridge

Bridget Smith (Lib Dem) – Leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council

Naomi Bennett (Green Party) – Cambridge City Council

 

Morning after: In Burwell on Saturday and Lucy Frazer MP tweeted this photo with the caption ‘many people opposed to the Cambridge Congestion Charge’.

Morning after: In Burwell on Saturday and Lucy Frazer MP tweeted this photo with the caption ‘many people opposed to the Cambridge Congestion Charge’.

One of those who attended was Neil Mackay, a member of the Cambs Against Congestion Charge group.

“My school report on the event would read ‘could do better’”, he said.

“All very slick and professional but in my opinion the BBC gave far too much time to trying to appear even handed in a debate that so clearly has a massive majority against the plans.

“They had sent reporter Ben Schofield over to Gothenburg (a city 8 times the size of Cambridge, with wide streets and excellent public transport system) to see how the CC system operated there since 2013.”

Mr Mackay said Gothenburg voted in a referendum in 2014 to do away with the scheme but is still operating “because it is a ‘cash cow’ and raises vast sums of money.

“Even though the charges are much lower than the tax level proposed for Cambridge.

“They also DO NOT charge more for vans and lorries. They also DO NOT charge for motorbikes. The Zone is just the centre not the whole city.”

He added: “The young single mother who had filmed a piece opposing the charge was totally incensed by the way the piece she filmed had been edited.

“She actually wanted people to gather together at the end of the recording to let them hear the points she had made that had been edited out.”

Mr Mackay said it emerged during the debate that Peter Blake the GCP transport director was the main architect of the congestion charge proposal.

“I thought Dave Baigent said it had been a decision of the board after they went through all the options.”

Mr Mackay said it is Councillor Dave Baigent at the forefront of pushing through a proposal for congestion charging in the city.

“The plan as it stands is to massively improve the public transport system in Cambridge and persuade car driver to abandon their vehicles at a greatly enhanced park and ride scheme with cheap subsidised fares into the city,” he said.

https://twitter.com/CambridgeTories/status/1621874153077837824

“This will partially be funded by Government money but when that runs out the bill will largely be picked up by motorised vehicle drivers paying a congestion charge”.

Related link

https://youtu.be/OW6A9dDxdRo

East Cambs Council leader Anna Bailey attended the debate but, in a Facebook post today, said: “There were so many issues that just didn’t get covered. Barely scratched the surface really.

“Gothenburg has the largest tram network in Northern Europe – 12 daytime and five nighttime lines on around 99 miles of track. We could see them in the background on the film.”

She added: “What we do now know though is that Lib Dem Bridget Smith who sits on the GCP as a voting member still won’t tell us whether she supports the charge or not, saying she needs to wait until the results of the consultation are out.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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