Examination of Witnesses (Questions 360
WEDNESDAY 28 JANUARY 2009
Q360 Ms Smith: Do you know whether
the NHS in Nottingham actually does charge for parking at the
Mr Gooding: It does, yes. At its
key sites it already has a permit system in place. It is tiered
over the salary ranges and types of users, so there are public
and private users who pay the charge.
Q361 Ms Smith: If it is already charging
its staff, why would it be absent from this levy? It is not always
an emergency service, is it? For many people it is a visit to
the hospital to see a patient, or they work in a non-emergency
sector of the hospital?
Mr Gooding: Yes, it could be administration
staff, for instance. The Nottingham scheme actually feels it is
in line with Government policy to look at providing an NHS discount,
so it has looked at their draft guidance that was available in
developing the scheme and feels that is in line with Government
policy to look at emergency services and NHS premises and to provide
a discount. It also considered things like educational sites,
but decided not to pursue that.
Q362 Ms Smith: So education sites
Mr Gooding: Education sites will
Q363 Graham Stringer: Was the City
Council and its depots and departments part of the 17% support
for the scheme? You said 83% were against it.
Mr Gooding: No, the City Council
did not respond on the consultation in terms of that, although
some of its employees could have.
Q364 Sir Peter Soulsby: Could I return
to the Manchester experience and just ask Councillor Walsh, you
referred a number of times to the way in which the proposal was
being perceived and I would like to explore with you whether it
was a matter of perception and the way in which it was sold that
was the problem or whether there are fundamental lessons about
what was on offer that needed to be learnt if the scheme was to
be made acceptable.
Cllr Walsh: I think they were
probably very perceptive. I think it was actually what was on
offer that was the key to all of this. I described earlier that
the elements of it covered a number of areas which had previously
been and would in other parts of the country have been mainstream
fundedadditional rail carriages and rolling stock, announced
in 2007, in July, by the then Secretary of State nationally. "Why
should Greater Manchester have to pay a Congestion Charge to get
additional rolling stock?" was a question which was regularly
asked. Rail stationsthere was a couple of major improvements
to rail stations, one in my own borough of Bolton. A bus interchange
link to the rail station has been in the programme and was approved
for construction in the 2012-14 period, perhaps brought forward
by 15, 18 months had the Congestion Charge been implemented. The
perception was, "If that is going to happen, why should we
have the Congestion Charge?" So it was almost the case that
these are mainstream projects which ought to have been, and initially
had been, approved for implementation and why therefore impose
a Congestion Charge? I think with that argument it was interesting
that the neutral stance adopted by the Greater Manchester Transport
Authority and AGMA to try to put that message across failed singularly
to convince the public that this Congestion Charge would improve
and speed up the implementation of these projects.
Q365 Sir Peter Soulsby: Do you think
with different benefits on offer it might have been acceptable?
Cllr Walsh: I think the fact is
the quantum was woefully inadequate for the pain that would be
borne. It would have needed a much larger project or series of
projects, it would have needed a much higher incentive and I think
the scale involved was de minimis in terms of the actual
pain which would have been borne and I think some of the other
fears referred to by previous witnesses, though because there
were two charging zones proposed for Greater Manchester, an outer
and inner, were changing almost by the week because as one community
objected the boundaries seemed to change to reflect objections.
So there was uncertainty even up to the time of the referendum,
or the poll, as to which boundaries would be implemented, but
the worry was that you would actually get at a number of points
huge car parks created, particularly if the Metrolink was improved,
if the cross-city transport links were to be improved on the scale
indicated, and there were real fears by residents in those areas
on the major arterial roads into the city.
Q366 Sir Peter Soulsby: Do you think
the experience of Manchester suggests that a referendum could
never be won in any circumstances, or do you think it is just
a matter of getting enough in there to make it attractive? I am
not suggesting the evidence from Greater Manchester -
Cllr Walsh: I do not believe that
a local polland it is not a referendum because it is not
binding under the Local Government Actwould ever vote for
Q367 Chairman: You think whatever
the benefits it would not happen?
Cllr Walsh: I think whatever the
benefits the public take the view, and very strongly expressed
the view, that they pay Vehicle Excise Duty, they pay the road
fund tax, all the taxes they pay, and that therefore to have an
additional imposition is inequitable.
Q368 Chairman: So you are saying
that in your view the public will never vote for an extra charge
even if the benefits are greater?
Cllr Walsh: No, I cannot see on
the scale of Greater Manchesterit may well be in other
parts of the country one may come up with a more relative scheme,
but my perception of the Greater Manchester model is that a poll
on that scale with the measures proposed would never produce a
"Yes" vote, and I think even in Manchester, which was
superficially the greatest beneficiary, a poll of 28 to 72 -
Q369 Chairman: I think that verdict
is clear from what we have heard! Finally, I would like to ask
you, what impact did the high fuel prices in 2007 and 2008 have
on traffic levels in your areas? Councillor Johnstone, can you
tell us anything?
Cllr Johnstone: I think it is
important to remember that I am representing the Local Government
Association and I am from Cambridge, but what I would say is that
there was evidence that people were starting to make a switch
away from their cars onto public transport, but the volatility
of fuel prices over the last 18 months makes it very difficult
to use fuel prices to influence travel behaviour. It is clear
that travel behaviour was influenced last year, but there would
have to be consistency in fuel prices. The other point I would
make is that high fuel prices, which we have seen in the past
with the fuel duty escalator, actually can impact in a very negative
way on rural areas where there is not access and will never be
access to really high quality public transport. So I think if
the Government were to use fuel prices to try to influence travel
choice and travel behaviour they would need to think very carefully
about the impact upon the rural communities as well as the impact
on congested urban areas.
Cllr Walsh: I have some figures
actually which are quite interesting. The forecast for the reduction
of traffic into Manchester for peak periods with the Congestion
Charge was around 12%. That was within the TIF submission. I think
it was the RAC Foundation, though I stand to be corrected on that,
which produced some figures before the poll took place which showed
that as a result of higher fuel charges and the economic downturn
around October/November last year the reduction had been 15%,
but if you say to a motorist travelling into Manchester, "Has
there been a reduction of traffic?" I suspect he would say,
"No, there has not." So although the forecast was a
12% reduction, the current reduction is around 15% because of
those factors and the public still believe that there is congestion,
so therefore it laughs in the face of the benefits of the Congestion
Q370 Chairman: Is there any evidence
of the impact of the recent fall in fuel prices?
Cllr Walsh: I can only quote the
figures that I was given. I think it was the RAC Foundation which
published these figures just before the poll was implemented last
Q371 Chairman: Councillor Johnstone,
have you any information on that?
Cllr Johnstone: I have no recent
information on the impact of the fall in prices, but it would
not be unreasonable to suspect that people may go back to using
their cars. Having said that, the impact of the recession and
job losses may well again force more people back onto public transport,
so I think there is a lot of work to be done to look at quite
what the impact is and why people make the travel choices they
do at a particular time.
Q372 Graham Stringer: One supplementary,
Councillor Walsh, on this particular issue. We were on the same
side in the referendum, but I would be interested in your views.
You mentioned in your previous answer that this was not a referendum
in actual fact, it was a poll under the Local Government Act and
therefore there were different rules and participants had less
rights then they would have done under a formal referendum. Do
you think that if there are to be these kinds of large referenda,
polls, the Government should change the rules, change the law
so that there is a clear basis for a referendum in that?
Cllr Walsh: I do not believeand,
as you say, you were closely involved in the polling and the opposition
to the implementationthe public have within their own minds
a clear thought that this is only a poll and therefore for guidance,
as opposed to a referendum, and therefore enforceable. The view
was, "We don't want congestion charging and we will vote
against it." I do not believe we would have seen a greater
different result had it been the one rather than the other.
Q373 Sir Peter Soulsby: Could I very
briefly return to Mr Gooding? It may be something I just missed,
either already said or in the evidence we already had, but I just
wondered if you could remind us, if we have already heard it,
how much Nottingham were expecting to raise from the workplace
parking levying? I am not sure we had that.
Mr Gooding: The charge actually
starts at £185 per year and it rises up over the first five
years to £364 per year per liable parking space. It expects
to collect in the region of £6 million, rising to £12
million per year.
Chairman: Thank you very much for coming
and for answering our questions.