12/13/2008UK: Congestion Pricing Referendum Loses 4-1
Nearly 79 percent of voters in Manchester, UK rejected congestion taxes in a referendum.
Voters in the UK city of Manchester in a referendum yesterday overwhelmingly rejected a congestion charging plan that officials had spent millions promoting. With over one million votes counted, all ten boroughs said no to the plan despite the promise of £2.8 billion (US $4.2 billion) in mass transit spending from the central government upon approval. The final tally stood at 79 percent against and just 21 percent in favor.
Officials had hoped to have the complex congestion tax infrastructure in place by 2013 so that they could charge commuters an initial rate of £5 (US $7.50) to drive into the city center during work hours. The average motorist would have paid an extra £1250 (US $2500) per year, although once in place the rates would likely have increased.
"This is a great result," Association of British Drivers spokesman Nigel Humphries said. "The world was watching the people of Manchester and they have seen through the great government transport bribe and voted to reject road pricing. Surely this means the government must now abandon its back door plans to tax, track and inconvenience drivers with road tolls."
Manchester's results mirror those of the only other public consultations held on the concept of congestion pricing in the UK. Earlier this year, two-thirds of residents in the western boroughs of London insisted on scrapping the congestion tax imposed on them without a vote by former Mayor Ken Livingstone. Seventy-four percent of voters in Edinburgh, Scotland likewise rejected a congestion tax proposal in a February 2005 referendum. Last year, more than 1.8 million voters signed an official petition on the Prime Minister's website opposing the concept of road pricing.
The National Alliance Against Tolls, one of the primary opponents of the Manchester plan, warned that despite the clarity of these votes, bureaucrats may return with the same ideas in other parts of the country. The Alliance was responsible for pressuring local government officials into consulting the public before introducing the charge.
"Drivers pay £50 billion a year in fuel duty and other taxes, and the government puts very little of that back into the roads system," the Alliance said in a statement. "Instead what has been happening around Britain is that the authorities are introducing measures that have the effect of slowing down general traffic and creating the congestion that they then want to tax. If, despite this vote, the government and other parties who have similar ideas persist in a policy of more taxes and tolls, we hope that all drivers will revolt and demand a fair deal for what they are already paying."