Councillors must study the county-council-commissioned survey report on congestion-charging for Cambridge from 2008

It was commissioned by a Conservative-led council – which makes it all the more interesting given their party is now opposing it.

I found the report in the Cambridgeshire Collection. Go in there and give them free money! Actually, the number of people from the property sector who use the Collection makes me wonder if Cambridgeshire County Council could set up a voluntary fund, inviting corporate donations to help sustain the Collection and County Archives that the construction and development industries are dependent on for their consultants’ reports.

You can read the local historical context here.

Attitudes towards Congestion – May 2008

I was given permission to digitise the full report but I need a separate permission to get it published. So I’ve made enquiries to the County Council for them to publish the report I’ve digitised for them – saves them a task of digitising it themselves given their very tight budgets. (Hence my endnotes linking to my Ko-Fi page because costs of living, even on UC)

What’s important with this 2008 report is that transport officers from the various public authorities and also elected councillors on both the Greater Cambridge Partnership and the Combined Authority actually read this report. If anything it should be hyperlinked to the GCP’s consultation being launched later this month, alongside maps and timetables of buses in 2007/08 – when this report was written. Because after over a decade of austerity there will have been inevitable changes in the volume of services provided, to the size of the bus network, and to the numbers of passengers using the services given the inevitable price rises.

“Who remembered the existence of the report in the first place?”

I found out about the commissioned report via some Twitter exchanges, which led me to this article from BBC Radio Cambridgeshire from back in 2007

“Let me absolutely emphasise there would be no way that we would be using the revenue from a congestion charge for anything else than re-investing in transport.”

Cllr Shona Johnstone (Cons – Willingham) 20 July 2007 to Andie Harper on BBC Cambs

Which sounds ***exactly like what is being proposed now***

“The revenue generated by the STZ, which would not be introduced until 2027/28, would be ringfenced for the bus network and transport improvements.”

Greater Cambridge Partnership press release 28 Sept 2022

Former Cllr Johnstone, long since-retired from party politics (I don’t blame her given the fun and games at the Tory Party Conference this week!) later quit as leader of Cambridgeshire County Council in November 2007 following the appointment of a new chief executive. (There’s a Ph.D thesis waiting to be researched and written about Cambridgeshire’s public sector institutions and their chief executives in the early 21st Century if anyone is interested!)

“Heeeeeeeeeeeyyyyyyyyy!!!! What’s with the extreme Tory tyre-screeching U-turn so intense that it shows up on the pollution monitors?!?!?!”

Yes – the Conservatives at a national level seem to be making a few of those of late. But comparing a policy line from 2007 to one from 2022 where the MP for South Cambs is calling the congestion charge a ‘car tax’ is not really tyre-screeching. More an evolution of party policy you could say! Furthermore, I’m more sympathetic to any MP who speaks up when heavily lobbied by lots of constituents – in particular those who:

  1. Don’t normally contact their MP on anything
  2. Have lower incomes and don’t have the connections to local politicians that policy wonks like me can easily take for granted.

Remember the responsibilities of a Member of Parliament is to represent ***all constituents*** irrespective of their age, voting status, and political opinions, and anything else. (I just don’t like it when long-standing issues that all parties have struggled with start becoming party-political slanging matches. And this one won’t be resolved with election-style ping-pong exchanges).

As an aside – on contacting your MP & councillors

Where a resident is having problems with a public service that is directly funded by central government (eg anything NHS-related, anything Job Centre or welfare-related, or anything passports & immigration-related), they can contact their MP who then has a duty to take up their case where the rights of the constituent are not being met. (See to find out who your MP and councillors are. For services delivered or overseen by local government, I advise contacting your local councillors first. Because there are more of them, and depending on the issue, it might be resolved through them).

“In the meantime, more chaos on the buses?”

It’s not like we haven’t been here before – this from the buses file of news clippings in the Cambridgeshire Collection.

Austerity and nationalised buses in February 1983, a few years before the buses were privatised.

And then subsidies shot through the roof not long after privatisation. This from 26 March 1988 in the Cambridgeshire Collection.

Above – this pre-dates the Poll Tax and thus council tax. Which is why people older than me who complain about councils often refer to “The rates”.

Above – county council subsidies to privatised bus operators – the article linked with the headline. The rise of £360,000 (from 900,000 to £1.26m at 1988 prices) was significant. Using the Bank of England’s inflation calculator, £360k is closer to £900k today.

“Which sounds like it’s in the region of what Stagecoach are demanding today”

This, despite the huge profits Stagecoach is making on top of the bailout they had from ministers over the CV19 hit.

“Council rejects £1.7m to support ‘diabolical’ Stagecoach”

John Elworthy for the new CambsNewsOnline – 01 Oct 2022

The Reach PLC-owned Cambridge News led with a front page “Hypocrites”

“Planned bus cuts by Stagecoach are “at best hypocritical” a council chief executive has said. Stephen Moir, Chief Executive at Cambridgeshire County Council”

Cambridge News 03 Oct 2022

The Cambridge Independent also reported on the actions by Stagecoach as ‘scandalous’

As a result, the consultation on improving bus services in the hope that public authorities can bring in a congestion charge have come at the worst of times. Perhaps it was a sneaky move by Stagecoach to derail plans for bus franchising that The Mayor Dr Nik Johnson wants to bring in. As I said to The Mayor on Monday (where he had one of his roadshows in Grand Arcade next to the Central Library where the Cambridgeshire Collection is based), Ministers still hold the purse strings, and what he can do is dependent on how much funding they are prepared to give him and when.

“On Monday 4th April the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority received a letter from the Department for Transport (DfT) making it formally aware of the decision to not provide it with funding for the Bus Strategy Improvement Plan at this time.”

Press release by CPCA on the BSIP bid that was rejected. April 2002

As I’ve mentioned in previous tweets and blogposts, one alternative option would be to split the Combined Authority into two/have two unitary authorities, and enable Greater Cambridge to tax the wealth and land values to pay for the much-needed infrastructure, while directly funding Greater Peterborough incl Fenland whose economy does not have the capacity to generate such revenues. Either way, the present system doesn’t seem to be working for anyone. Least of all the potential and actual bus passengers. Which reminds me – do get in touch with Richard at the Cambridge Area Bus Users Group if you are interested in helping campaign for improved bus services.

In the meantime, have a look at the Twitterstream from CamCycle on what Cambridgeshire County Councillors made of the Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan – which you can read at item 8 here.

Above – from today’s Highways and Transport Committee – item 8

And if you are interested in improving all things pavements and walking infrastructure, join the Living Streets Cambridge Branch here!

(It can’t be just me who wants better and wider pavements not just in urban areas but rural ones too?)

If you are interested in the longer term future of Cambridge, and on what happens at the local democracy meetings where decisions are made, feel free to:

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