Friday, 30 March 2012

Non sequiturs in Nottingham

Nottingham city council has announced a new levy on workplace car parking spaces that will amount to a charge of about £2.50 a day for people to park outside offices and factories.

The arguments around the new levy remind me of the referendum a couple of years back in Manchester on whether to introduce a congestion charge zone that would mean drivers paying to enter the city centre in order to fund expansion of the tram network.  The Manchester proposal was predictably voted down by the public and the Nottingham one is being imposed in the face of opposition from businesses and workers who will have to pay.

As in Manchester, Nottingham city council are arguing that the scheme will cut congestion and raise money for more trams.  There is clearly a contradiction between these two stated aims.  If everyone who currently drives to work in Nottingham started using public transport instead, two things would happen: the bus and train network would be overwhelmed and the council wouldn't raise a penny for more trams.

Of course, Nottingham council knows what Manchester city council knew: drivers will grumble but pay the charge, congestion won't reduce and they'll get the money for more trams without having to put up the council tax or business rates or putting pressure on central government for the funds.  If they were actually serious about cutting congestion, there are a couple of options: only allow cars with more than one person to travel into the city centre at rush hour, or introduce a charge high enough - say £25 a day - to stop most people being able to afford to do so.

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