Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Congestion Charging Consultation

This morning at a packed presentation including Councillors, Council Officials and Press, the County Council announced results of the consultation exercises undertaken relating to congestion charging. I asked some questions about how the surveys were conducted, but have many more left to answer!

For me, the key result was from the question asked in door-to-door interviews (i.e. not a self selecting set of people), to what extent do you support the principle of congestion charging: (MRUK report, p56):

Strongly support: 7%
Tend to support: 24%
Neither support nor oppose: 19%
Tend to oppose: 16%
Strongly Oppose: 33%

I.e. opposing 49%, supporting 31%, in a statistically valid survey conducted across Cambridgeshire. In Coleridge whilst door-knocking, we found approx two-thirds against, one-third in favour. We also found that a lot of those in favour in principle became anti in scenarios in which they would be affected by the charge.

The Council's online survey (i.e. self selecting respondents) was even more anti-Congestion Charging, so those less happy with the plans were more likely to go out of their way to make their view known.

Despite these results, I also believe the questionnaire was designed to make it as hard as possible to disagree with congestion charging. The in 'principle' question was followed by the question: if all money raised was spent on improving transport, would you be in favour. Of course, more were then in favour, but the question is nonsense - there won't be any money raised, it will all go on administering the scheme - it may even cost money to operate. Why not ask, if the Congestion Charging scheme involved your car number plate being constantly tracked as you drove round Cambridge, would you still be in favour, or if the scheme didn't cover its costs and Council tax had to go up as well as paying the charge, would you still be in favour.

To me the result is clear - Cambridgeshire residents do not want congestion charging, and any politicians going to the polls next May still supporting it could be in for a rocky ride with the electorate - we must drop plans for Congestion charging now.

There was a slightly conspiratorial air to the meeting - the next big step for the Congestion Charging debate is the County Conservatives group meeting on Friday, when a new leader will be elected - this could trigger a change of tack from the County. I could tell you the gossip, but I'll be sensible...

Meanwhile I'd be interested to know what brief the market research company was given, and who came up with some of the blatantly biased questions. I feel some Freedom of Information requests may be coming on...

Full results and reports should be available from 5pm here.

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