Examination of Witnesses (Questions 340
WEDNESDAY 28 JANUARY 2009
Q340 Sir Peter Soulsby: Like a number
of other citiesand it is true to some extent in the Manchester
areaNottingham has very tightly drawn boundaries and it
just strikes me that this is a Nottingham City Council initiative?
Mr Gooding: Yes.
Q341 Sir Peter Soulsby: To what extent
have you got cooperation with other local authorities which are
part of the Greater Nottingham area?
Mr Gooding: In terms of the workplace
parking levy, Nottingham's local transport plan is actually a
Greater Nottingham local transport plan, so it is actually done
in conjunction with the County Council. So the policies in there
are integrated over the plan there. However, Nottingham City Council
is only pursuing a workplace parking levy, not the County Council.
Q342 Sir Peter Soulsby: Is that not
a potential weakness in the scheme, in that certainly part of
the core urban area is outside the City Council's jurisdiction?
Mr Gooding: We only have the powers
to put it in within our own administrative area, but if we look
at the public transport improvements we are making for Nottingham
City Council, it will be far wider spread than just within the
City Council. There is the extension to the tram system, there
is the bus link networks and the improvements to the station.
Really the majority of them are actually in the City Council area,
although the benefits are wider spread because the commuters actually
come from the County Council area but a lot of the congestion
impacts are actually within the City Council. The commuters actually
impact on the City Council area, though they may reside in the
County Council area.
Q343 Graham Stringer: I am not clear
from your answers. The businesses which are expected to pay this
car parking levy, what is their attitude? How many of them are
in favour and how many of them are against?
Mr Gooding: With the public consultation
we undertook overall we did a lot of direct mailings and lots
of communications to try and get businesses to participate in
the public consultation. Of the 3,500 businesses which would be
liable for a levy, 3,000 of them would not have to actually pay
anything, they would just have the licence. During the public
consultation exercise over 12 weeks 100 businesses responded to
that and of those 83 objected and the rest were neutral and four
were in support. In terms of actual issues and consultation only
83 businesses actually took the time to object during the consultation
Q344 Graham Stringer: That in round
terms is 83% of those who replied, who would pay?
Mr Gooding: Yes.
Q345 Graham Stringer: That is a pretty
severe level of objection, is it not?
Mr Gooding: I suppose it would
be unprecedented really to expect them to come out in direct support,
but you could also argue the fact that there are 3,500 businesses
and only 100 took the time to respond. I suppose it depends on
how you look at the results.
Q346 Graham Stringer: It does depend
on how you look at the results and I can understand why those
businesses who would not pay did not respond. I can understand
why 83% of the businesses who did respond, who are going to pay,
would be against it. How is Nottingham City Council evaluating
that work? Is it taking the fact that most businesses are neutral
because they are not going to pay as support for the scheme? Is
the Council taking the line you seem to be taking?
Mr Gooding: Can you just repeat
Q347 Graham Stringer: You have done
a consultation exercise. What is the threshold that has to be
passed when you write a report to the Council to say, "We
consulted the people affected by this and it is a green light
because 83% of them are against it"? What is the threshold
you have to get to?
Mr Gooding: Firstly, the public
consultation is not a referendum. It was not to say that if the
decision came back as "Yes" we were going to do it.
Q348 Graham Stringer: I understand
the difference between public consultation and a referendum. Yu
have gone out and spent a great deal of money consulting. What
I want to know is, do you have criteria in Nottingham for what
would be support for the scheme and what would be opposition so
that you would not go ahead, or are you just going through the
Mr Gooding: In terms of the consultation,
we looked at the consultation response that came in. We then themed
and sub-themed, so we basically looked at what the issues were
being raised in the representation -
Q349 Chairman: I think what Mr Stringer
is asking you is how will you decide what to do as a result of
that consultation? What would be there to constitute approval
in your mind, or are you just going through the motion of having
Mr Gooding: In terms of the motions,
we are going through the public consultation motion, which is
a mandatory requirement that we undertake that. By going through
the consultation we then identified the issues people raised.
By identifying the issues, the Council then put forward its response
to those issues.
Q350 Chairman: How will you assess
the balance on those issues?
Mr Gooding: Those issues were
taken to the Council's Executive Board to consider them alongside
things like a public examination, which was a five day examination
of all the issues raised by the responses, including the public
as well as businesses. That was done by an independent examiner,
who also took forward a report and it all went through to the
Council's Executive Board so that they can make an informed decision
looking at the issues raised, looking at the Council's response
and an independent examiner's views. They took the decision in
principle to proceed with the levy.
Q351 Graham Stringer: Can I ask Councillor
Walsh, what lessons have you learnt about public attitudes to
congestion charging and road user taxes during the consultation
and referendum in Greater Manchester?
Cllr Walsh: I think the biggest
single lesson is that the public saw it as being unfair, that
there was a perception, a very clear perception by the majority
of those who voted that a small number were being asked to pay
a disproportionate sum. It was interesting that in fact many large
businesses were also opposed to the imposition of the Congestion
Charge, fearing it would impact badly on their employees, many
of whom were amongst the lower paid members of the community and
that is very interesting. It is interesting, as I have described
earlier, that the sums involved were at the margins. If you take
away the contingency fund, if you take away the cost of the charging
equipment, the net sum raised from the Congestion Charge was about
£200 million in a project which was valued at £2.8 million
and the quantum, therefore, was perceived to be minimal in terms
of benefits accruing. The other message which people were giving
very clearly when one spoke to them and in the response one had
is that it was perceived to be inequitable that projects which
were funded by mainstream funding in other parts of the country
were being imposed upon Greater Manchester only if they paid a
Congestion Charge and that it was "blackmail", which
was a word that was often used.
Q352 Graham Stringer: Was there any
difference between the attitudes of the general public and businesses?
Were businesses more or less hostile than the general public?
Cllr Walsh: There were those members
of the business community who were in support of the Congestion
Charge. The majority in my perception were opposed to it, but
it was interesting in doing private polling and in talking to
individualsand I did quite a lot on the streets, talking
to people with petitions and other measuresthere was a
strength of feeling that I have never previously witnessed from
members of all political parties across all sections of the community;
it was not confined to any one group, and this was in the boroughs,
not just in the city of Manchester but in the boroughs surround
Q353 Graham Stringer: What do you
think the lessons in public policy are for local authorities and
the Government out of the referenda exercise in Greater Manchester?
Cllr Walsh: I think the biggest
single lesson is that a politic of taxation, of higher taxation,
is never popular and to take that as an option to the public creates,
I think, a very clear message that the answer is, no to higher
Q354 Ms Smith: Mr Gooding again.
I am clearly not picking on you, but I am interested in this levy.
You talked about consultation with businesses. Does the term "businesses"
in the remit of this scheme include the universities? Are the
universities classed as businesses for the purpose of this scheme?
Mr Gooding: To the best of my
knowledge, yes. The university is liable.
Q355 Ms Smith: Pretty major employers
Mr Gooding: Yes. They would be
because there were several different categories in terms of the
consultation and they could have gone in -
Q356 Ms Smith: They would be just
one of the 20% that would be included in this scheme?
Mr Gooding: Yes.
Q357 Ms Smith: Would the same apply
to the NHS?
Mr Gooding: The NHS is different
because the NHS actually receives 100% discount under the Nottingham
scheme. So that means that although they would have the licence
they would not be liable to pay the charge.
Q358 Ms Smith: Would the same apply
to the City Council?
Mr Gooding: No, it would not.
Q359 Ms Smith: So the Council would
be liable to pay?
Mr Gooding: All public sector
organisations are liable. I was telling you of the discounts.
In terms of the Nottingham scheme there are several discounts.
There is a 100% discount for the emergency services, Fire and
Police, NHS front-line premises, and there is a 100% discount
for businesses with 10 or less spaces and disabled spaces.