Row over Richmond's possible inclusion in congestion charge zone

By The Editor

27th Oct 2020 | Local News

The leader of Richmond Council has slammed the government's suggestion that Transport for London could extend the congestion charge.

The move was among a series of measures suggested in a leaked letter from Transport Secretary Grant Shapps earlier this month. It also proposed raising money by adding a new transport precept to Londoners' council tax bills.

The congestion charge currently operates in central London, covering the same area as the capital's ultra-low-emission zone (Ulez).

Ulez will be expanding to cover a wider area in October 2021 – including areas around the North and South Circular in Richmond.

If the congestion charge zone is also expanded, this will result in additional charges for residents wanting to travel across the borough, including to Townmead Waste and Recycling Centre, regardless of whether their vehicles meets emissions standards.

Richmond Council leader Cllr Gareth Roberts said in a letter to Mr Shapps that the move would place "an intolerable, additional financial burden on the vast majority of borough residents".

He added that many residents are facing additional burdens as a result of the requirement to withdraw the free travel subsidy for under-18s, as part of the earlier bailout.

"It is completely unacceptable that both of these measures, which it is claimed are necessary to fill a funding gap for a service which covers all of London and benefits all Londoners, will be selectively applied," Cllr Roberts said.

"Not all Londoners will live in the proposed extended congestion charge zone, yet those that do will have an additional tax burden if they do not qualify for an exemption.

"And commuters who live outside of the Greater London area, and are therefore not liable to pay any additional mayoral precept, will be effectively subsidised by all Londoners, including some of the very poorest households in the capital."

At last week's transport question in Parliament, Mr Shapps said the government had given the Mayor of London "a long list of different things he could do".

He said: "It's up to him what he does… it is his choice and we are not going to require him to extend the congestion charge anywhere."

Cllr Roberts said suggestions that the Mayor could choose whether or not to accept these conditions in return for the bailout was "fanciful" and called on Mr Shapps to "take the lead and remove these conditions unilaterally."

A spokesperson for the Department for Transport said: "We have agreed an extension to the support period and to rollover unspent funding from the Transport for London Extraordinary Funding Agreement, allowing further time for negotiations for a new settlement.

"These discussions will ensure London has a safe, reliable network. It would be inappropriate to disclose further details at this stage."

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