Select Committee on Transport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 1 - 12)



  Chairman: Good afternoon, Miss Hoey, we do have one piece of domestic organisation to get out of the way if you will just forgive us. Is there anyone who has a declaration to make?

George Stevenson: George Stevenson, Member of the Transport and General Workers Union.

Chairman: Gwyneth Dunwoody, member of the Rail Maritime Transport Union.

Brian Donohoe: Brian Donohoe, member of the Transport and General Workers Union. Louise Ellman:

Louise Ellman, member of the Transport and General Workers Union.

Robert Syms: Robert Syms, interest in the family business with some interest in road haulage.

Graham Stringer: Graham Stringer, member of MSF.

Clive Efford: Member of the Transport and General Workers Union.


  1. Thank you. Now, Miss Hoey, I know you are very concerned about the whole question of the Charging Scheme which is to be brought in. I have heard you being very eloquent on it in the Chamber of the House of Commons. We are grateful that you have come to give us evidence today. Can I ask you what evidence you actually have that key workers are going to give up their jobs rather than switch from cars to public transport?
  (Kate Hoey) Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity. On that specific question I have done a survey recently of all my schools within the congestion zone, that is four primary schools, one nursery and two secondary schools. Every single one of those schools in various ways have told me of teachers they know who are going to leave when the congestion charging starts and of their concern at the effects of retaining staff and recruiting staff. It is very difficult to get staff in some of the Inner City schools. I have even heard one of the head teachers who is now saying quite clearly that she will have to leave. Many of the more experienced teachers have always driven and have always seen that as something which is very necessary to their way of working in the school. I am also very concerned about some of the housing officers in the area and many of the other public servant workers who cannot possibly ever afford to live in Inner London and travel. Some of them are working very anti-social hours, particularly because I have St Thomas' Hospital in my constituency. Although there have been some exemptions which will help some of the more specific medical staff, they are very specially and very narrowly defined. Just one example where the nursery at St Thomas' with 42 children—hoping to expand soon—from key workers in hospital, all of whom drive, and now are being told that they will have to pay the congestion charge, which works out at a substantial amount of money. They are already beginning to say that they will have to take their children elsewhere. They cannot possibly get on the tube or come on the bus with their children.

  2. How many people have indicated to you in other services? Do you know what percentage of teachers drive in the Borough?
  (Kate Hoey) Within my own zone at on particular primary school, half the teachers drive. Another one has four out of seven who drive. But, of course, it is not just the full-time teaching staff, it is the part-time teaching staff and, very importantly, the support staff, many of whom work at that school because they are able to drop their children off somewhere else. Some of them may, of course, decide they would have to come by public transport—at great inconvenience, they feel, because they carry things and because of the anti-social hours—but many of them will just say, unfortunately, "Sorry, but we are going to find a school nearer where we live".

Tom Brake

  3. What alternatives to congestion charges would you use to raise the funds that are needed to improve public transport in London?
  (Kate Hoey) The problem is that there is not going to be very much raised through congestion charges, certainly at the beginning. My view is that we should not be introducing congestion charging until, first of all, we have actually got some improvement in public transport. I had a letter just this week from someone who waits every morning at Clapham North tube to go to Bank and every morning has to wait for three, sometimes four, tubes to go past. She is in favour of congestion charging, but she said to me, quite strongly, "How on earth am I going to get on the tube if even a small number of people stop driving their cars?"

  4. How would your raise the funds?
  (Kate Hoey) I personally would not introduce congestion charging until public transport has been seen to be improved; there is some improvement in the bus service, but there is no short-term solution to the Underground. Of course, as you know, the financing of that is now settled, but that is going to take some time before we will see any improvement. The crucial thing so far as Kennington is concerned is that, even if you were in favour of congestion charging, where the boundary has been drawn is just a nonsense. It has been put through the heart of a community which is going to be completely divided now. It is a very narrow road; there are only two lanes the whole way—a very narrow two lanes—it is the only part of the zone right round London, apart from one section, that is two lane. It is completely dividing up the community.

  Tom Brake: I do not disagree, but you have not actually answered my question which is about where you would raise the funds to make the transport improvements.

  Chairman: Actually we are here to ask about the effect. We have a very short time. Mrs Ellman?

Mrs Ellman

  5. Could the problems that you have identified be resolved by wider exemptions?
  (Kate Hoey) I think that there is a really strong case for those crucial Inner City public sector workers—like teachers, like some of our care attendants in some of the social services offices, some of the key workers in our housing offices where we cannot get staff—to be exempted. Certainly there is room for a lot more exemption when it comes to hospitals. I think the Mayor, understandably perhaps from his point of view, has wanted to keep the exemptions as few as possible. But as we get nearer to the congestion charge being introduced more and more people are actually beginning to understand the effects on them and the effects are not just on people who drive cars. That is what I feel is very important that this Committee—although it is not all your responsibility—understands.

  6. How widespread is knowledge about congestion charging amongst your constituents?
  (Kate Hoey) I personally think that the consultation was a bit of a sham. Yes, of course, the Mayor talked a lot about it and there was discussion in the media, but in reality the consultation in Kennington was one large meeting in which people made it very clear they did not want the boundary and they wanted a lot of changes. They did not get any changes to that. It is only now, I expect, that some people will say that the responses to the consultation showed whatever per centage in support. I think the tendency was the people who supported congestion charges and knew, as a principle, they were in favour of it answered the responses. What we are saying now is that more and more people are beginning to understand it. In all the housing estates just over the River in my constituency many elderly people have a car; they do not use it that much; they pay so much per week to park it in their garage or on the estate in a residential parking space. If they are going to take that out, even for a day, for an emergency, perhaps they have to take somebody to the hospital or something happens, not even to do their shopping because they might wait to do that on Saturdays, they are going to have to pay £2.50, an extra £2.50 just to keep their car, living in what they thought was a community that they could move around in. It is not a question of people coming into London who are obviously going to pay the £5.00 coming from way out, but here are people living in London who use their car on a daily basis perhaps—or every other day—to do something within their community. The whole way that it has been thought through has not taken into any account the concerns of communities. This is coming from the Mayor whom, I thought, actually cared about communities.

  7. Do you think it is possible for the boundary problems to be resolved in relation to Kennington without setting a precedent that would jeopardise the whole of the scheme?
  (Kate Hoey) I think it is interesting when you explore with other witnesses why that boundary was chosen. I do not think any real thought went into it. I think it was expedient; it was there; it sort of created what would be seen as a natural inner motorway round London (although it is not a motorway, as I said, it is small) and I think what should have happened, if congestion charging was going to be introduced, is that it should have been started in a much, much smaller area right in what would be seen as the very centre of London, Trafalgar Square, what I would call Inner City area. I think what upsets the people of Kennington is that they are being told that the congestion charge boundary is going through their community and yet Harrods—which to most people outside London would be seen as very much central London—is outside the zone. Between now and February I think it is impossible to look at the zone, but what certainly will happen is that there will be much more traffic on that road and those people just outside the zone will have to put up with a huge amount of extra traffic for no benefit whatsoever because they cannot even get on the tube if they went along to get on it.

Chris Grayling

  8. The concern I have is, that whilst you may clear up central roads for buses, a lot of the people who use buses in central London, who come through your constituency, come from outer areas through into the centre. If you get displacement of traffic from the centre into the outer areas you are going to get congestion junctions and so forth. Have you looked at all at the congestion issue just outside the charging area and the potential impact on public transport as well as motorists?
  (Kate Hoey) As I mentioned, at Clapham North and Clapham Common it is practically impossible to get on the tube in the morning without waiting some time.

  9. On the roads particularly?
  (Kate Hoey) I was talking to someone just two nights ago, a very, very good community worker working in Stockwell, who travels every day from north London and in order to avoid paying the £5 (she works incredibly anti-social hours, has been there for eight years and has done a fantastic job) she is either going to have to go an extra half hour at least to go right round and circle round—she has worked out a route that she can do which will take about 35 minutes longer and go through all these little streets and go round to get there, or she moves to work in a place nearer. That is what is going to happen. It is a natural instinct. If you cannot go the way you have always gone you will find a way that gets round that. Yes, of course, there are schemes that we could put in to have traffic free zones and no entries and so on, but all of that, in the end, breaks down your community again so that it becomes almost chaotic.

  10. Has the Mayor managed to create significant through bus routes as he originally talked about, or are we still really looking at short lengths of bus lane punctuated by fully congested junctions?
  (Kate Hoey) Because of all the works that are going on at the moment, I know from two of my own staff who use the bus coming up every morning from that part of south London that it is completely touch and go every morning how long it will take because the bus lanes do not go the whole way and because of the other problems that are happening. The congestion is happening at blocks and junctions and the buses get stopped so bus journeys at the moment are taking longer as well, I think, on average.

  11. You talk about key workers in the public sector, but clearly there are also key workers in the private sector in central London, some of whom I suspect live just outside in your patch who may well be affected in the same way. The danger, surely, of going purely down the public sector route is that it is not purely public sector workers who are key workers and potentially affected.
  (Kate Hoey) No, except that I suppose the kind of workers I am looking at are people who are on the whole perhaps—it is not true all the time—more likely to be lower paid workers. The reality is that for many people in the city this tax is not going to make the slightest bit of difference; somebody will pay it for them. I do not suppose it affects MP's either. That is the unfairness of it. It is a regressive tax. It is hitting those people who have struggled hard with their small business that need a car or need something to carry around their window cleaning materials; it is hitting them incredibly hard and they are the ones who are going to suffer. Small businesses will simply pass the cost to everyone else. So everyone will pay for congestion charging.


  12. That is very helpful. Just one final question. Do you find it difficult in your Borough within the zone we are talking about to recruit staff? Are there existing vacancies within the public sector?
  (Kate Hoey) Very much so. Certainly it is difficult to attract, at the level of pay that there is and the hassle there is people are not choosing very easily to come forward for those key jobs. This will make it much worse.

  Chairman: We are very grateful to you and it has been extremely helpful. Thank you. Would the next set of witnesses like to take their places.

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