23 July 2007.
For immediate release.

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Sinking Manchester C-Charge Ship Suffers Embarrassing Internal Leaks
AGMA Voting Rules to be Changed in an Attempt to Impose Congestion Charging?

Already holed below the waterline, the sinking ship of Manchester's congestion charge plans face a crucial vote on Friday in order to try and keep them afloat. A source from within one of the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Bodies (GMPTE/A) reveals that there are just two items to be discussed at the Association of Greater Manchester Councils (AGMA) meeting on Friday 27th July. The first is a proposed move to change the rules from a consensus of all 10 councils to majority voting — effective immediately. A vote will then follow on whether or not to enter a bid for funding from the Transport Innovation Fund (TIF) and therefore congestion charging.
 
Our source also revealed details of some of the costs for the proposed congestion charge scheme. Each windscreen Tag payment transaction will incur a 15p charge, and there will be an administration cost of 52p each time a number plate is read by the ANPR camera enforcement system. This would mean that it would cost £2.68 in transaction costs for a £5 charge. The £1.8 billion loan, that the AGMA neglects to mention in its loaded surveys, will reputedly cost Manchester £150 million per year for 30 years. The claim made at the Urbis debate by council leader Richard Leese that the maximum £5 charge will make £180 million per year profit beggars belief, given that London's £8 per day charge consistently fails to make anywhere near that amount. Clearly £5 is not nearly enough to cover the costs of the scheme and finance the £1.8 billion debt. Remarkably, in a Manchester Evening News article published on 11th January 2005, Richard Leese said that congestion charging could be "extremely damaging" to the local economy.
 
MART and ABD spokesman Sean Corker said:
"These internal leaks reveal that the authorities have known all along how much the scheme would cost to operate and have deliberately withheld them because they would be so damaging to the already weak case for a congestion charge in Manchester."
Transport Minister Ruth Kelly is in denial about the fact that the Transport Innovation Fund (TIF) is being used to blackmail Manchester into introducing congestion charging. MART volunteers have surveyed Ruth Kelly's Bolton constituency around the Hunger Hill area.
 
Sean Corker continues:
"The Bolton households we contacted had been led to believe by the authorities that the £3 billion public transport investment was coming from the Government as new money. Once it was explained to households that almost £2 billion of that figure was to be a loan raised locally against the congestion charge over a 30 year period, after which all congestion charge moneys reverted straight to central Government, 86% of people were happy to sign our petition. Households expressed the opinion that they had been misled. Clearly the democracy shy AGMA realise that the truth about the TIF bid would not survive a referendum. Will Ruth Kelly now listen to the opinions of her constituents and stop the congestion charge?"

 

 
 
NOTES FOR EDITORS
 
The Ombudsman is still looking into complaints against the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) concerning the non-disclosure of information and the breaking of council rules; she has already said that the complaints against the AGMA cannot be investigated, as AGMA is only a "voluntary association". The Information Commissioner has also confirmed that AGMA does not have to comply with Freedom of Information Act requirements. However, FOI requests directed to AGMA members in their individual local authorities should be covered by the FOI Act.
 
M.E.N. article 'Brakes put on road toll plan' from 11/1/2005 quoting Richard Leese
 
No referendum, just an AGMA opinion poll using loaded questions designed to mislead
 
Contact Sean Corker: 07-736-836-163
 
Manchester Against Road Tolls (MART)

Association of British Drivers (ABD)
http://www.abd.org.uk

 
 
Notes for Editors about the ABD