Greater Manchester is currently holding a referendum on the proposed congestion charge. The TaxPayers’ Alliance has been actively campaigning against the new charge for some time. Now, Stockport council (one of the councils in the Greater Manchester area) is running a campaign encouraging people to challenge the plan, arguing that the Transport Innovation Fund scheme will be financially damaging for both taxpayers and the council.
Stockport has been accused of running a one sided campaign, with supporters of the charge saying it is misusing public funds. The district auditor, however, has stated that the campaign in no way violates how public funds may be spent and that Stockport is absolutely within the law to campaign against this measure.
When councils targeted to implement a government scheme cannot be brought on board, that scheme is clearly in trouble. Stockport’s opposition to the TIF plan stems from both a concern for the debt government has asked the Greater Manchester Councils to take on- approximately £1.2 billion or over £600 per voter- and the immediate cost to voters in the congestion charge itself. With all that debt, the transport plan would not show profits for almost 5 years. The economy is effectively on its knees and national debt is now higher than it has ever been. Many councils are also struggling financially, how can the Government reasonably suggest that taking on more loans with so little profit is the right thing for them to do? They should be encouraging more responsible lending and spending
The referendum runs until December 11 and Stockport has pledged to run its campaign to the finish. The TaxPayers’ Alliance and other groups will also keep campaigning on this issue. In a recession, and with the tax burden up by more than 50% in the last ten years, Manchester residents don’t deserve this new burden.