Memorandum from the National Alliance
Against Tolls (NAAT) (DLTB 25)
1. The committee have invited comments on
the draft Local Transport Bill which was published on 22 May 2007.
This is the response of the National Alliance Against Tolls (NAAT).
2. The NAAT was formed by groups protesting
against tolls in England, Scotland and Wales. We oppose all forms
of toll regimes, even if they are given names such as "congestion
charging", "road pricing" and "road user charging".
We took part in the campaign against the Edinburgh Tolls and with
others we are opposed to the Manchester Toll proposals.
3. The NAAT are generally opposed to the
proposals for "road pricing" which were first announced
by the Government in July 2004. Our reasons for this are summarised
as an appendix. We are not alone in our views, roads users have
already made it very clear that they do not want more road taxes,
particularly a tax that will cost many billions to administer
and require a major surveillance system to enforce it.
4. The purpose of this Bill is to make an
already undemocratic process less so. The Government know from
the Edinburgh Toll Poll, the petition to the PM which attracted
1.8 million signatures and various surveys (including Institute
of Transport Studies report commissioned by DfT and published
in March 2006) that people are overwhelmingly opposed to their
road toll proposals.
So there are to be no more referenda, the requirement
to go through even a mock form of consultation is removed, and
power is to be given to the least democratic of all the local
authority bodiesPassenger Transport Authorities.
5. The Bill includes a section on regulation
of buses, our submission only deals with the more significant
changes to the tolls part of the billsections 64 to 82.
These clauses change the regime as set out in the Transport Act
2000 and the GLA Act 1999. (Our references below to the 2000 Act
can be taken as including the GLA Act.)
Clauses 64 to 70
6. These clauses of the Bill would give
power to Passenger Transport Authorities (PTAs) to join in with
one or more local traffic authorities in making a "local
7. PTAs are not directly elected and seem
to be dominated by unelected Passenger Transport Executives (PTEs)
whose aim seems to be to push drivers off the road and on to public
transport. PTAs and PTEs were created by the Transport Act 1968
when the cities owned and operated large bus fleets. The set up
is one of the most opaque and least democratic areas of government
8. This proposed new power for PTAs seems
to be designed to change the law to match what is already happening.
A good example is Manchester where the work on preparing the proposed
charging scheme seems to have been carried out by the unelected
PTE and private consultants employed by them. The 2005 TIF submission
was made "by AGMA / GMPTA/E on behalf of the Greater Manchester
authorities". The 2006 bid was "made by Greater Manchester
PTE/A on behalf of all the Greater Manchester Authorities".
AGMA (Association of Greater Manchester Authorities) is possibly
not cited as making the 2006 bid as they did not endorse it till
two months after it was submitted.
9. In our view AGMA had failed to comply
with the requirements of the Local Government Access to Information
Act 1985 in the way that meetings to discuss the road charges
had been conducted and documents made available
We complained to the Local Government Ombudsman
(LGO) about AGMA and others. The LGO told us that he could not
investigate AGMA, and said that it was a "voluntary association".
So it appears that the Government's flagship road pricing scheme
has been developed and promoted not by the local traffic authorities
but by bodies that have no legal power to make such a scheme and
may be presuming that MPs will pass this Bill.
10. The councillors in the local traffic
authorities in Greater Manchester appear to know almost nothing
about what is going on. Before the May 2007 elections there were
various reports in the Manchester papers indicating that councillors
thought that they were being kept in the dark. E.g. on 20 April
the Manchester Evening News (MEN) reported that the Rochdale council
leader had said: "The only details of the scheme are those
I have read in the MEN" So not even the leader of one of
the 10 local traffic authorities knew what was going on.
11. This Bill seems to be designed to legalise
and encourage the way that charging has been promoted in Manchester.
Is this because the less that councillors and voters know, the
better chance there is of pushing these schemes through?
12. This clause of the Bill removes (in
England) the requirement in section 169 of the 2000 Act for charging
schemes to be approved by the Minister. Given that it is the Government
that is encouraging charging it is strange that they want to do
a Pontius Pilate.
13. Under the 2000 Act there is no mandatory
requirement to consult, hold an inquiry, or hold a referendum
on a charging scheme. There is however a power (section 170) for
the Minister to order that there be consultation and / or an inquiry.
Clause 74 removes this power in England. Authorities may still
consult and hold some form of inquiry, but there is little doubt
that these will just be a sham.
14. This clause would allow the charge
to vary according to "different methods or means of recording,
administering, collecting or paying the charge". Charging
in this way for any service discriminates against the less well
off who are less likely to pay in advance or set up direct debit
arrangements etc. It is also likely to discriminate against casual
users who use the roads the least.
15. In the particular case of road pricing
this could also be used to coerce drivers into doing something
that they would prefer not to do such as installing some sort
of black box in their vehicle. In Manchester it also seems that
for phase one the preferred method of payment is that drivers
will register their vehicles with "franchise agents";
again many drivers will not want to do this.
16. Clause 79 would widen the extent to
which information is shared between various bodies including local
traffic authorities, PTAs and the Government. There seems to be
no limit as to what information is being shared. The suspicion
must be that the purpose of this clause is to give legal backing
to the passing on of information with regard to individual vehicles
and drivers. Many people, not only drivers, will be concerned
about further moves towards a surveillance state.