Peterborough's Conservative MP believes road charging 'could be on the cards' for city despite Labour denials

Paul Bristow has said ‘alarm bells should be ringing’ – but Labour says there will be no road charging in Peterborough if they win next election
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Peterborough’s MP believes a “ULEZ type car charging scheme could be on the cards” for the city.

Paul Bristow, a Conservative, wrote as much in his Peterborough Telegraph column; he’s also referred to a “secret plan”, concocted by Labour, to introduce congestion charging in Peterborough after the next election on social media.

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Three things should “get alarm bells ringing”, he wrote in his column.

Peterborough's MP Paul Bristow says he believes road charging is 'on the cards' for the city of the opposition take controlPeterborough's MP Paul Bristow says he believes road charging is 'on the cards' for the city of the opposition take control
Peterborough's MP Paul Bristow says he believes road charging is 'on the cards' for the city of the opposition take control

The first is that cross-party councillors, excluding the Conservatives and one member of independent group Peterborough First, voted down a motion at a Peterborough City Council (PCC) meeting to rule out congestion charging and low emission zones (LEZs) in the city.

Opposition councillors, including Labour and the Liberal Democrats, say that they voted it down because they believe it to be “electioneering” and “scare-mongering”, not because they support charging drivers (owners of particular vehicles can be charged in particular areas within an ultra/low emission zone) and that they do not.

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The second is that a Labour Government could impose congestion charging, should the party win the next general election – anticipated in 2024/5 – Mr Bristow wrote.

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He continued that deputy leader Angela Rayner MP “has said ULEZ is coming to every town and city across the country”.

Ms Rayner said in an interview with Sky News that ULEZ is coming to “towns and cities across the UK” – the Conservative Party has reportedly pointed to this as evidence Labour wants to impose it in every city, although Ms Rayner did not use those exact words.

Peterborough's Labour Party has also pointed out that the Conservative Government has suggested road charging as a possible way to reduce nitrogen dioxide concentrations in its NO2 plan (2017) and Clean Air Framework (2022).

It is, furthermore, adamant that drivers wouldn't be charged if they came to power.

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In response to Mr Bristow’s comments, a spokesperson said: “This kind of Tory smear campaign is a new low for politics in Peterborough. The reality is a low emission zone would not work in Peterborough, it is not needed and is not supported by any political party in the city.

“There is a clear consensus across the council against any form of charging. Instead of pointless party political attacks, we should be working together to improve transport in the city for both motorists and public transport passengers.”

Mr Bristow’s third concern relates to the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority’s (CPCA) Local Transport and Connectivity Plan (LTCP).

The CPCA, which funds transport projects in the region and is led by Labour mayor Dr Nik Johnson, drew up this document, which says that it will “work with partners to investigate, develop and implement appropriate Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) across the region”.

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It continues that there “will be situations where it is necessary to actively discourage private car use”, including by introducing “road user or congestion charging schemes” – as has already been proposed in Cambridge.

This appears in the general strategy for the whole region; it is not mentioned in the Peterborough-specific element of the document.

A spokesperson for the CPCA said that the LTCP remains in draft form and that the decision to implement road charging ultimately rests with the council: the CPCA doesn't have the legal power to impose charging in Peterborough.

Its current leader, Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald (Conservatives, West), has made it clear he would not support road charging in the city; the leader of the next largest group, Cllr Dennis Jones (Labour, Dogsthorpe) has also said it wouldn’t be implemented under his leadership.

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In full, the CPCA said: “The LTCP and its policies are currently in draft form only. The Combined Authority is continuing to work with our constituent councils, as it has done throughout the development of the draft LTCP, with the aim of gaining agreement on an updated version.

“This includes agreeing how the LTCP refers to transport demand management policies. The Combined Authority Board will need to approve the LTCP before it is submitted to Government and becomes the agreed transport strategy for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

“The continued work on the LTCP is with the aim of bringing an updated draft of the strategy to the Combined Authority Board for approval at its September 20th meeting.

“Separately, any decision to introduce a road charging scheme would ultimately rest with the Highways Authority, which in the case of Peterborough, is the City Council.”

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The LTCP draft returns to the CPCA board in September, having previously been brought to the board in July, largely because Cllr Fitzgerald objected to the reference to road charging.

But despite denials from Peterborough Labour and the CPCA, Mr Bristow remains convinced road charging could be introduced – as do Conservative councillors who have also questioned why other parties’ councillors didn’t support their motion to rule it out.

“If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck,” Mr Bristow wrote.

“I think it is part of my job to stand up for Peterborough and warn residents about what could be coming. I firmly believe ULEZ/Congestion Charging could come should Labour/Lib Dems win here and Labour win the next election. It could be imposed by a Labour Mayor and a possible Labour Government should they win the election.

“It would be a disaster for retail and hospitality, for motorists, and for those who have no alternative but to drive through our City Centre. I will fight against this.”