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Congestion charge leaflet fiasco: Manchester small businesses lose confidence PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 13 July 2007

The FPB today said its members had ‘totally lost confidence' in the consultation process over congestion charging after the revelation that pictures of ‘local people' in a leaflet were in fact of American models.

Matt Hardman, the FPB's Campaigns Manager said: "The revelation that Terry the Rochdale van driver was in fact Erich the American model has destroyed the credibility of the whole consultation process. The impression given by these pictures of happy smiling people was that no-one had much reason to worry about the congestion charge. In fact many of our members are very worried indeed."

Mr Hardman added: "It is bizarre that Manchester City Council prefers to pay an American picture agency rather than find real case studies in Manchester. If they had asked us we could have provided them."

Ms Jennie Lawrenson, of Inner Sanctuary Spa, an FPB member, said: "I am very much against the new congestion charge as I really think it will deter my customers from coming into the city centre to use our business. I think they should improve public transport before they even begin to think about a congestion charge. In relation to the consultation process, I own a small business and I simply do not have the time to go to numerous different consultation meetings. Besides, it is very obvious that they have already made their minds up and the congestion charge will be implemented."  

Matt Hardman said the FPB was concerned that the consultation process would not fully value the opinion of small businesses, despite the harmful impacts the tax would have on them: "The charge of up to £5 a day will be detrimental to small businesses by increasing their delivery costs and damaging their relationships with their suppliers." 

Furthermore, the tax was likely to deter shoppers from travelling to Manchester city centre in favour of other out-of-town shopping centres.  

In addition, the FPB is concerned that, although bigger businesses and chains may be able to absorb the costs that this tax will impose on them, smaller businesses are already stretched to make ends meet. This further burden will be too much for unique local businesses, leading to their decline. 

A recent survey, conducted by the FPB to gauge the impact of the congestion charge on smaller businesses in London, showed that a staggering 90% of respondents said it was having a negative impact on their business, with over 70% of respondents witnessing a drop in their profits. With this serious impediment to the success of smaller businesses, the FPB is surprised that Manchester is following London's lead. 

The London findings are supported by a survey commissioned by Peel Holdings which showed that 80% of companies in Manchester would vote against congestion charging in a referendum. Half of the 1,246 companies polled said they would be less likely to invest in the area as a result of road pricing.

 
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