Council leader Mohammed Farooq was left scratching his head – again – this weekend after Peterborough MP Paul Bristow – again – claimed “the nightmare scenario of road charging in Peterborough has come one step closer”.
Cllr Farooq believes he couldn’t have made it clearer that road charging is not an option now, or at any time in the foreseeable future, and remains puzzled by Mr Bristow’s repeated assertions.
The latest outburst by the MP came in a column for the online Peterborough Today website in which he said: “Mark my words – road charging is the plan”.
Still bitter that his Conservative group lost control of the council following defections by councillors who had lost faith in the MP’s friend and former leader, Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald, Mr Bristow launched a fresh onslaught against the new administration.
“They think people in Peterborough are stupid. But I won’t be silent on this issue,” he wrote.
But just days earlier Cllr Farooq re-iterated the council’s position, which is effectively to dismiss everything the MP has to say on the matter.
He said everyone knows that his support of the Local Transport and Connectivity Plan (LTCP) – which Cllr Fitzgerald had twice vetoed – was to achieve “huge aspirations for growth in Peterborough and a key part of our plans is having an improved transport system which offers better opportunities around public transport, walking and cycling, whilst not penalising those who choose to use their cars.
“It is for this reason that I voted in support of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority’s updated Local Transport and Connectivity Plan (LTCP)”.
Council leader hits back at false claims
Cllr Farooq hit back at Mr Bristow and other Conservatives who had tried to misinterpret, deliberately, what his new administration will do.
“There has been commentary in recent months about the updated LTCP opening the door to ultra-low emission zones or other schemes which penalise motorists,” he said.
⭐️STOP CONGESTION CHARGING/ULEZ IN PETERBOROUGH
Road charging in Peterborough is one step closer. The Labour backed Independent Council has signed up to a plan including ‘demand management’ & ‘fiscal measures’
— Paul Bristow MP (@paulbristow79) December 1, 2023
“The plan clearly states that schemes such as this can only be introduced if approved and endorsed by the city council.
“The council also has the power of ‘veto’ on the implementation of any highways related scheme within Peterborough, which means it can cease any scheme proposed by the Combined Authority which it does not believe to be in the best interests of the city.
Farooq insists no ULEZ whilst he is leader
“So, to be absolutely clear, there will be no ULEZ or congestion charge in Peterborough under my leadership.”
Mr Bristow, using his Peterborough Today column, regurgitated his comprehensively rubbished claim of “a very real risk of congestion charging or Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) type charging coming to our city”.
Unreliable bus services and areas not served by buses in Peterborough disproportionately impact people without access to car. Instead of Paul Bristow banging on about road charging, he needs to focus on the poor bus services. https://t.co/RZgDv5vvOu
— David whitmore ☮️ (@Whitmore03David) December 6, 2023
The MP claimed that “when we had the chance to veto this plan the Conservatives did this and put Peterborough first. The decision was brave, and it could be argued that it cost the Conservatives power in the city.
“All the other parties clubbed together along with a band of defecting Conservatives and launched a power grab citing this decision. This is despite the fact Conservatives won the 2023 City elections and gained three additional councillors in my Peterborough constituency.”
MP ‘I won’t be silent’ on ULEZ claims
He promised: “I won’t be silent on this issue. The only way to avoid road charging in Peterborough is to back my campaign.”
That campaign comprises a petition to “stop road charging in Peterborough” although there is no indication of how many have signed it.
Meanwhile Cllr Farooq has bigger – and more immediate – issues to contend with and that is shaping the city council’s budget.
— Nigel Pauley (@nigelpauley) September 20, 2023
“We have never shied away from the fact that we face difficult decisions going forwards as our predicted budget gap in 2024/25 is £6.2m,” he said.
“We are now setting out how we plan to meet that gap and deliver a balanced budget which councillors will be asked to approve at the full council meeting on 21 February 2024.”