Council chief's fury over 'abhorrent' city congestion charge

Cllr Anna Bailey and Cllr Elisa Meschini

Cllr Anna Bailey, leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council, has called on Cllr Elisa Meschini (right) to drop plans for a congestion charge in and around Cambridge. - Credit: Supplied/Council/Harry Rutter

A local council leader has labelled plans to impose a congestion charge in a part of Cambridgeshire as “abhorrent”. 

Councillor Anna Bailey, leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council has fiercely criticised calls for the charge to be implemented in and around Cambridge. 

In a letter to Cllr Elisa Meschini, chair of the Greater Cambridge Partnership's executive board (GCP), Cllr Bailey and local Conservative colleagues are calling for the GCP to “drop all notions of congestion charging without delay”. 

“East Cambridgeshire is a rural area with severely limited, or in some cases, no access to public transport and where car ownership is a necessity, not a choice,” said Cllr Bailey. 

Cllr Anna Bailey of East Cambridgeshire District Council

Councillor Anna Bailey, leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council has fiercely criticised calls for the charge to be implemented in and around Cambridge. - Credit: Supplied/Council

“We are disgusted that the Liberal Democrat-led county council and the Liberal Democrat-controlled GCP are seeking to impose this on East Cambridgeshire residents with disingenuous efforts at consultation - which is what they are trying to do.  

“It is abhorrent.” 

In the letter, Tory councillors say congestion charging would “deeply affect many of our residents who work, but cannot afford to live, in Cambridge and so are forced to commute on a daily basis”. 

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They also believe each car driver travelling into Cambridge would be charged “£15 every time they had to enter the city”. 

Tory councillors say this could result in an “extra cost of £3,600 a year for residents”. 

Cllr Elisa Meschini outside Shire Hall

Cllr Elisa Meschini has received a letter from Conservative councillors in Cambridgeshire, calling for a congestion charge in and around Cambridge to be dropped. - Credit: Harry Rutter

Cllr Meschini said that "better public transport would be brought in before any potential charge" in a bid to promote cheap and sustainable travel.

“Travelling sustainably and efficiently should be possible for everyone, with much cheaper fares and much faster journey times," she said.

"Without tackling congestion and raising revenue to fund better buses, our options will be much more limited."

But despite calls to drop congestion charging being turned away, local Conservatives are hopeful they can continue what they believe is a “stealth tax. 

“Conservatives across Cambridgeshire will continue to stand up for hard working residents that do not deserve to be financially punished in this way.” 

Cllr Bailey added that party members in East Cambridgeshire are standing strong against the charge. 

She added: “Conservatives at East Cambs District Council are united in their opposition to this punitive tax which will hit the least well off the hardest.” 

Cllr Alan Sharp at Cambridgeshire County Council meeting

Cllr Alan Sharp put forward a motion to Cambridgeshire County Council to oppose a congestion charge, which failed to get enough support. - Credit: Cambridgeshire County Council

Tories mounted pressure on the GCP after a motion was put forward by Cllr Alan Sharp at a county council meeting on March 15

The motion, which opposed a congestion charge in Cambridge, failed to get enough support with a majority of councillors voting against it.   

Results from a consultation on transforming the city's bus network are yet to be released, and a second consultation is planned for later this year.