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FPB backs protest over expansion of congestion charge zone PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 15 February 2007

The FPB has slammed Mayor Ken Livingstone’s decision to expand the area of the London Congestion Charge zone and has thrown its weight behind a protest by the West London Residents Association, which will take place on the first day of the charge, Monday, 19 February 2007.

Tax on smaller businesses

The zone will be expanded west to cover the areas of Bayswater, Notting Hill, Kensington, Knightsbridge, Chelsea, Belgravia and Pimlico, and the FPB is concerned that this will spell disaster for smaller businesses in the area. Chief Executive of the FPB, Nick Goulding, said that this extension will amount to yet another tax on smaller businesses in the capital.

“With significant decline in footfall in the central zone as well as increased running costs for business owners and travelling costs for employees, the Congestion Charge has been a millstone round the neck of small-business owners. This extension will be nothing short of a disaster for those in the extended zone.“

'Berlin Wall'

The zone boundary is like a ‘Berlin Wall’, dividing communities, and severing well-established social and business links to the detriment of local people. The arbitrary nature of the Charge, as opposed to a pay-as-you-use road charging system favoured by many commentators, means that people will charged the ‘full whack’ even if they are only intending to cross the boundary for 10 minutes to buy a pint of milk. The implications for those businesses operating within the boundary are clear.

No improvement

There are also serious repercussions for those businesses that operate outside the zone but need to drive through it to deliver products, for example. John Exley, Director of Wicker Fisheries in London, is based outside the zone but sends a fleet of vehicles through the zone each day and estimates that it costs him more than £10,000 per year in congestion charges alone.

Mr Exley said: “It’s ten thousand pounds that we have just got to pull out of nowhere. The whole scheme was justified on grounds of improving the transport in the capital, yet we send 10 or 12 vehicles through the zone each day and we have seen no improvement whatsoever. It is clearly a money-making exercise and there is no real benefit for ordinary road-users.”

Only some main roads, forming about 5% of the extension’s road length, are congested from time to time. These could be much more cost-effectively dealt with using a road-pricing approach. A study by the Centre for Business and Economic Research forecasts 6,000 job losses and £236m per annum in lost business as a result of the extension of the Charge.

 
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