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Elections 2023: Will congestion charge proposals affect voters’ decisions in Cambridge?

Will the proposed congestion charge for Cambridge prove to be a major issue for voters going to the polls this week?

People in the city quizzed by the Local Democracy Reporting Service raised the potential new road-charging regime as a key issue ahead of polling day on May 4.

The Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) is behind the proposals to create a new city-wide Sustainable Travel Zone, in which drivers would be charged £5 on weekdays, from 7am-7pm. The money raised would fund an improved bus network and there would be exemptions, including for people on low incomes.

Rallies have been held opposing the proposed congestion charge. Picture: David Johnson
Rallies have been held opposing the proposed congestion charge. Picture: David Johnson

The GCP has said it would deliver the public transport improvements before introducing any potential charge.

A public consultation on the proposals was held last year, and a report on the findings from it is expected to be published in the summer.

The decision on introducing a congestion charge will be made by Cambridgeshire County Council after a recommendation from the GCP. But the city council - which is currently Labour-run - will have a vote on the proposals at the GCP’s board meeting as it, along with the county council and South Cambridgeshire District Council, is among the local authorities on the body.

In Cherry Hinton, it is an issue on voters’ minds.

Resident Will Rogers said he was opposed to the charge and is considering who to support because of this.

He said: “Because the Conservatives are clearly against it, the Liberal Democrats seem for it, Labour seem to be setting on the fence, I would probably tend to vote for the Conservatives.

Will Rogers, Cherry Hinton resident. Picture: Hannah Brown, Local Democracy Reporter
Will Rogers, Cherry Hinton resident. Picture: Hannah Brown, Local Democracy Reporter

“I know the Labour councillors have been here a long time. They may well get in and have been pretty good councillors, but nonetheless this is a major issue.”

Another voter - who wished to be anonymous - said he was planning to vote for the Conservative candidates “purely” because of the congestion charge proposals.

He said: “I know there are other things to take on board, but at the end of the day we do not know how this will work. It will be a nightmare.”

Another voter said he was “not dead keen” on the proposed congestion charge either, but it will not change his mind on who to support - and Labour would be getting his vote.

In the city centre, the issue was again on voters’ minds.

Pat McCafferty, who plans to vote for Labour, said she believed the proposals were “all wrong” and did not think there had been enough consultation.

Some in the city said they were supportive of the proposed congestion charge.

Donna, who lives in the city centre, said: “I am in favour of it, because living centrally I feel like I am really lucky that I mainly cycle and walk places, so for me I think it is a good thing.

“I think it is hard for people who I guess worry about commuting in, but I think if there is a good public transport system put in place already, hopefully peoples’ habits will have changed by then.”

Labour has said the current GCP proposals would have “major impact” on people in Cambridge, and said its candidates would “lobby and challenge” the GCP to make any scheme, if implemented, “as fair as possible”.

The Liberal Democrat group has said the “status quo” was not working, but that they recognised “practical concerns” had been raised about the GCP proposals, and that they wanted to see changes made.

According to the Green Party, there needs to be a “rapid shift” to greener travel in the city, but they suggested a workplace parking levy for large employers should be considered first to fund the improvements to public transport.

Conservative candidates are campaigning against the proposed congestion charge, and have said they do not believe a road charge would not achieve a sustainable solution for travel in the city.

Meanwhile, there are also independent and minor party candidates to vote for in some wards.

You can read more about the views of their parties and individuals in our Q&A at https://www.cambridgeindependent.co.uk/news/politics/

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