Memorandum submitted by the Greater Manchester Momentum Group (GMMG) (LTB 03)

 

Summary

This written submission on behalf of the Greater Manchester Momentum Group:-

1 Describes the activities of the Greater Manchester Momentum Group (GMMG) and explains why the Group is a significant stakeholder in the transport system and how it is well placed to comment on the Bill;

2 Sets the Group's concerns in the context of proposals for local authorities to 'trial' local road user charging schemes, incentivised by the Transport Innovation Fund; and

3 Describes the changes the Group proposes to 6 Clauses in the Bill to ensure the preservation of local democratic accountability and consistency with the Government's professed objective of empowering local authorities.

 

1. Greater Manchester Momentum Group

1.1. The Greater Manchester Momentum Group (GMMG) is a non-political alliance of international, national, regional and local organisations that shares an interest and commitment to the development of Greater Manchester.

1.2. The Group supports the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities' (AGMA) goal of promoting the growth and prosperity of Greater Manchester and shares its belief that the continued development of the strategic transport infrastructure is an important part of the region achieving its future potential.

1.3. The Group came together to lend expertise to the issue of congestion across the region and alternatives to road user charging - currently on the table as part of the Transport Innovation Fund bid.

1.4. Members of GMMG include: AG Parfett & Sons, AK Worthington Distribution, Brabners Chaffe Street, The Emerson Group, Federation of Small Businesses, Harvey Nichols, Joseph Holt, Hydes Brewery, Kellogg's, Lookers, Makro Cash & Carry (UK), Peel Holdings, The Road Haulage Association, Speedy Hire, Stax Trade Centres, Tyco Fire & Integrated Solutions, United Biscuits, William Hare.

1.5. The Federation of Small Businesses is the largest business association in the UK, representing more than 210,000 businesses nationally, with approximately 21,000 in the North West.

1.6. The Group represents a wide range of businesses all with a significant stakeholder interest in the transport system - ranging from operators of transport infrastructure to road hauliers to major retailers. The Group has a collective in-depth knowledge and understanding of transport issues and a wide range of expertise.

2. Road User Charging - General

2.1. The Group considers that the financial incentive for local authorities to 'trial' road user charging schemes in local areas is highly dangerous - the Government itself should conduct any trials for road user charging and local areas should only use tried and tested schemes.

2.2. The Group does not consider road user charging to be the most cost effective or efficient way of dealing with congestion and believes that further research is needed to look at alternative ways of tackling congestion and raising money for transport infrastructure that also meets future environmental needs.

2.3. The Group believes that investment in transport infrastructure through the TIF bid should not be dependent on introducing road user charging.

2.4. Despite pronouncements that the Bill will empower local authorities it contains a number of clauses whose provisions could be used to impose road user charging on a local authority which has decided that it does not want it, thereby disempowering that authority and contravening the asserted principle which underpins the Bill that these matters are for the local authority to decide.

3. Road User Charging - Greater Manchester

3.1. GMMG believes that a local road user charging scheme in Greater Manchester would unfairly penalise businesses and their employees as well as hindering investment to the sub-region - a situation which would affect any area that goes ahead with a local charging scheme.

3.2. GMMG have nine main areas of concern around the current TIF bid:

Scale: The proposed scheme goes overnight from zero to one significantly larger than any other scheme in the world. Therefore it is untested and a significant risk - the study of congestion within Greater Manchester will provide better insight over which areas need the greatest immediate and longer term investment.

Imbalance: The scheme will capture thousands of ordinary businesses and employees within the M60, but the expenditure on infrastructure for promised transport improvements is almost exclusively aimed at improving commuter journeys into Manchester city centre - the scheme should be developed to reflect the movement of people and goods within the Greater Manchester Region.

 

Ignores movement of goods: Businesses will pay significant road user charges yet all of the expenditure on infrastructure is on public transport to move people. None is directed at companies distributing freight or moving goods - a new infrastructure should focus on how to move the significant amount of goods made in Manchester for the rest of Britain and the world, with potentially huge benefits for the environment.

A cost of employment: Unlike in London, the charging zone covers many ordinary jobs with people on average wages who cannot afford to pay up to 100 per month. Inevitably employers will have to meet this cost or lose employees to firms outside the M60 - the charge should not be imposed on top of road tax, council tax, petrol tax and business rates already levied on individuals and businesses for infrastructural support.

No way back: If the economic assumptions that have been kept secret are wrong, Greater Manchester will be saddled with 1.8bn of debt over 30 years which means there will be no way of reversing a damaging scheme - an alternative solution for infrastructural changes over a period of time would have benefits for financing the debts. The past experience of investment in the Metrolink ran significantly over budget and time.

One dimensional: The proposals assume that no measures other than charging can reduce congestion. There appears to have been no work looking at other ways of easing traffic flow - there are many proven methods for tackling traffic in different scenarios.

Isolated: The Government and opposition have distanced themselves from a national road pricing scheme which means Greater Manchester will become uniquely a more expensive place to do business and work, thereby damaging future job creation and investment - we should use tried and tested schemes first.

No guarantees: There are no guarantees on future pricing, the zone covered, the time the charge applies or the actual public transport delivered. In addition there is no guarantee that if a national scheme (e.g. motorway scheme) is introduced we will not end up paying twice on top of existing road taxes.

Technology: No detail has been provided on the technology which will support the scheme and abundant experience suggests that large scale IT projects carry huge risks of failure - a tried and tested model should be put in place first.

4. Clause 77: Secretary of State's Power to Direct a Review of Arrangements

Amendment sought:

4.1. Clause 77 empowers the Secretary of State to direct ITAs, or councils within an existing or future ITA area, to carry out a review of arrangements - including of their constitutional arrangements and the delegation of functions to an ITA.

4.2. The Clause should be amended to include at the end of subsection (5) "and must be addressed to every authority falling within subsection (2) whose area or part of whose area lies within each integrated transport area or proposed integrated transport area to which the direction relates".

Note:

4.3. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that every authority which may be affected by a review ordered by the Secretary of State has the opportunity to participate in the review. As currently drafted, the clause does not require this, yet the review could lead to orders being proposed which an affected authority does not support. The amendment aims to preserve local democratic accountability.

5. Clause 78: Constitutional Arrangements

Amendment sought:

5.1. Clause 78 empowers the Secretary of State to make an order changing the constitutional arrangements of an individual ITA - including membership and voting rights. This could result in the exclusion or watering down of the influence of one or more local authorities within an ITA, contrary to the will of the authorities concerned.

5.2. The Clause should be amended;-

5.2.1. In sub-section (4) - "sub-section (3)" should be replaced with "sub-sections (3) and (8)".

5.2.2. At the end of the Clause, insert "(8) An order under this section may be made only if each of the constituent councils has consented to the constitutional arrangements provision for which is to be made in the order".

Notes

5.3. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that a local authority's influence within an ITA cannot be reduced or removed against its will, given the powers which the ITA has or may have within a local authority area - for example, over public transport provision or pursuant to orders made under clauses 80 and 81. The amendment aims to preserve local democratic accountability.

5.4. The amendment is consistent with concerns expressed by the Transport Select Committee on the potential abuse of this power. The Committee recommended the use of the Parliamentary super-affirmative resolution procedure before an order under this clause can be made but our amendment provides a solution which accords better with principles of local democratic accountability.

6. Clause 80: Delegation of Local Authority Functions

Amendment sought:

6.1. Clause 80 allows the Secretary of State to make an order which delegates a wide range of functions of a county council or district council to an ITA. This could include the power under the Transport Act 2000 to introduce road user charging, as well as other powers related to public highways.

6.2. The Clause should be amended to include at the end "(5) An order under this section may be made only if the local authority whose function is to be delegated by the order has consented to the delegation of that function".

Notes

6.3. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that a local authority cannot have one or more of its functions (e.g. to introduce road pricing) delegated to an ITA or eligible transport authority against its will. The amendment aims to preserve local democratic accountability.

6.4. The amendment is consistent with Government assurances that decisions on local road pricing schemes will be taken by local authorities themselves.

6.5. The concern which the amendment addresses is consistent with the Transport Select Committee's concern regarding the transfer of functions from directly elected local authorities to unelected ITAs.

6.6. The drafting is based on the wording in clause 85(8) (which requires local authorities to consent to boundary changes proposed in an ITA area).

7. Clause 81: Conferral of a Power to Direct

Amendment sought:

7.1. Clause 81 empowers the Secretary of State to make an Order conferring on an ITA the power to direct a local authority as how to exercise its powers as highway or traffic authority. This could include the power under the Transport Act 2000 to introduce road user charging, as well as other powers related to public highways.

7.2. The Clause should be amended to include at the end "(13) An order under this section may be made only if each council which would be subject to a direction made pursuant to the order has consented to the Secretary of State making the order".

Notes:

7.3. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that a local authority cannot be forced, against its will, to accept the exercise of powers by another authority over roads within its area (e.g. to introduce local road pricing). The amendment aims to preserve local democratic accountability.

7.4. The amendment is consistent with Government assurances that decisions on local road pricing schemes will be taken by local authorities themselves.

7.5. The concern which the amendment addresses is consistent with the Transport Select Committee's concern regarding the transfer of functions from directly elected local authorities to unelected ITAs.

7.6. The drafting is based on the wording in clause 85(8) (which requires local authority consent to boundary changes to an ITA area).

8. Clause 84: Dissolution of an Integrated Transport Area

Amendment sought:

8.1. Clause 84 allows the Secretary of State to make an order to dissolve an integrated transport area and abolish its ITA. One or more local authorities will be designated to take over as the local transport authorities for the former area.

8.2. The Clause should be amended to include at the end of subsection (3) "and shall only designate an authority for the whole or part of the territory previously comprised in the integrated transport area if that authority is a county council or a district council for that territory".

Note:

8.3. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that only a directly elected authority for any part of a former ITA area can assume the functions of a dissolved ITA. Although dissolution of an ITA requires a majority of the constituent councils to consent (see clause 85(6) and (7)) clause 84 as currently drafted does not require the Secretary of State to nominate as the successor body to the ITA a directly elected authority for each part of the former ITA area. Thus, an authority which formed part of the minority not consenting to the dissolution could find that the former functions of the ITA are transferred to another authority (e.g. one which formed part of the majority in favour of dissolution) which has no democratic accountability to the electorate of the area concerned. The amendment aims to preserve local democratic accountability.

9. Clause 104: Abolition of Power to Require Consultation or Inquiries for English Schemes

Amendment sought:

9.1. Clause 104 removes the power for the Secretary of State to hold an inquiry in relation to a proposed local road user charging scheme in England or to require a local authority to consult on a proposed charging scheme.

9.2. The Clause should be amended to include after sub-section (1):

"(1A) In sub-section (1), for "may" substitute "shall".

"(1B) In sub-section (2)(a) for "may" substitute "shall".

"(1C) In sub-section (2)(b) for "may" substitute "shall".

Notes:

9.3. The purpose of the amendment is to require local authorities to consult and hold an inquiry before introducing local road pricing. At present, authorities have a discretion not to consult or hold an inquiry but there is a safeguard in that the Secretary of State has to confirm the road pricing proposals. As the Bill proposes that it will no longer be a requirement for the Secretary of State to confirm a local road pricing scheme, it is crucial that local authorities are obligated to consult and that the robustness of the case for local road pricing is tested by an independent inspector.

9.4. The amendment is consistent with the Transport Select Committee recommendation that there should be a requirement for consultation.

 

April 2008