Cambridge Elections – the congestion charge

For those of you not aware, my name is on the list of candidates for the Queen Edith’s Ward in Cambridge for the City Council Elections in May 2023.

One of the first issues that people are contacting me about is the proposed congestion charge being promoted by the Greater Cambridge Partnership. Inevitable given that it has been in the news regularly.

“Are you for it or against it?”

Put simply, I am against the congestion charge as put forward by the Greater Cambridge Partnership (see their Q&A here) because I am calling for the abolition of both the Greater Cambridge Partnership *and* the Combined Authority.

“Short answer: Abolish the GCP. If you abolish the GCP, congestion charging: Gone.”

Antony Carpen to Queen Edith’s Hustings, 25 April 2023

Note Parliament has called for an overhaul on how England (including councils) is governed. I propose overhauling the entire structure to provide a single unitary council to cover Cambridge and the surrounding villages and market towns – even those currently over the county border like Haverhill and Royston – residents of which would be excluded from a referendum.

“What if someone else comes forward with a congestion charge policy?”

I have been crystal clear in past blogposts that I am not against congestion charging or road user charging in principle. What matters is how effective it is at achieving an objective. That also means answering the question on what I think of the objective. Is the objective simply to raise money? If so, then I’m against it as such a charge is a *regressive* tax on those on lower incomes. There are more socially fair methods to raise tax revenue. If the objective is to reduce congestion, then the charge needs to result in behavioural changes – moving people onto public transport or active transport. The problem is Cambridge does not have comprehensive networks of either. Both need to be in place *before* any charge comes in. Therefore:

If such a new unitary authority wants to bring in a future congestion charge in order to help reduce motor traffic congestion, I believe a whole series of things need to happen, and new public transport systems need to be built before. These include but are not limited to:
  • A new light rail connecting Cambridge (starting with Cambridge Connect) with surrounding market towns and large villages – and the latter two with each other
  • A new, comprehensive network of segregated cycleways and pavements (recalling abandoned proposals from the 1960s)
  • New designated priority routes for cycling/active travel where children and young people participate in designing and mapping out what those routes should be based on the lives that they live and would like to live – because it is their future
  • A new progressive business levy that exempts small businesses but taxes the larger, wealthier ones much more heavily (to help reduce the negative impacts of the sci/tech boom)
  • An overhaul of local taxation as called for by Parliament in 2021 including but not limited to the abolition of council tax and business rates
  • A scrappage scheme for old motor vehicles to subsidise the costs of new electric vehicles for small businesses and local residents on low incomes
  • The completion of a comprehensive bus network owned and run by the unitary council, not private companies like Stagecoach
  • Any levels of proposed charges being kept under constant review to ensure that it maintains the balance of reducing congestion while at the same time ensuring those on the lowest incomes/with the greatest need (for example community nurses who have to be out and about) are not disproportionately affected.
“Won’t it take ages for a new light rail system to be built?”

I’ve been campaigning for, and asking public questions to the GCP and Combined Authority about light rail since the mid-2010s. We could have started work on this years ago. Those delays are the responsibility of the senior transport officers and the senior politicians (including Ministers of the Crown which established the structures) in post over those years.

I’m not seeking executive public office – i.e. control of a local council as part of a constituted group. I am an independent, so therefore (even in the unlikely event of being elected) won’t be in any position to commit an institution to take action.

You can read more about my unusual campaign here – which includes links to blogposts, videos, and how to donate should you feel willing and able to in the present cost of living crisis.

As an independent candidate I have little chance of getting elected, so I recognise my candidacy is to open up to public debate many of the points I have made in blogposts (see and videos ( over the past decade.

I also encourage residents and voters to read the manifestos of my fellow candidates, and also reports and studies from local campaign groups such as Cambridge Past, Present, and Future (formerly the Cambridge Preservation Society (founded in 1928), and Living Streets Cambridge (formerly the Pedestrians’ Association – founded in 1937) to inform questions to candidates and new ideas for the future of Cambridge & Cambridgeshire.

You can find the contact and social media details of all of the candidates standing for election where you live at which is run by volunteers from the Democracy Club (who I’ve helped out in the past). They are a great group to get involved with for people who want to help strengthen our democracy but not get involved in party or electoral politics. I am not backed by or endorsed by them, but I fully support the work that they do. You can donate to support their costs here.

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