Thursday night, during another stroppy and less than impressive full city council meeting, one of the only things the Lib Dems and Labour managed to agree on was voting down Tory leader Bunter Eddy’s motion to have a referendum on road charging.
This means that the Lib Dems, Labour and the Greens are all agreed that congestion charging is the way forward for Bristol and are prepared to impose it.
Beware, however, any claims these parties make regarding the financial benefits road charging might bring to the city and the potential it has for funding improvements to Bristol’s ramshackle public transport system.
Southville’s Green councillor Charlie Bolton has already confidently claimed on his blog:
Serious action on public transport in Bristol will only be achieved with money – shed loads of money in fact. Congestion charging is a means of raising shed loads of money (a tax on motorists in fact).
But blogger and Ealing councillor Phil Taylor has spent considerable time doing the sums and he’s calculated that London’s congestion charge has generated a surplus of just £14m from a gross revenue of over £900m in the five years the scheme has been running.
This means that just 12p from the charge of £8 a day is potentially available for “serious action on public transport”.
The majority of the money generated from the scheme seems to have been spent on the massive capital costs of the project and the rest has been handed to the privileged, New Labour-friendly private sector partner for the project – Britain’s worst firm – Crapita.
Predictably a lot of money has also gone on advertising and yet another public relations gravy train with Transport for London spending £78 million a year on marketing and communications for what is effectively a monopoly anyway.
That’s over twenty-five times more cash going into a small industry of self-styled media creatives than is spent, from the supposedly revenue generating congestion charge, on transport improvements for people in London with proper jobs!
This could well be noteworthy here in Bristol because the other unaminous decision at Thursday’s city council meeting was to set up a transport authority for the greater Bristol region based on the Transport for London model!
Bristol’s young people and school leavers might want to bear this in mind for the future too. It looks like a training in PR and advertising is likely to be of far more benefit to them – though possibly not the city – than a training in traditionally useful skills like civil engineering or, say, train driving.