Saturday, December 27, 2008

City Tories Call on Government to Revoke Compulsory Congestion Charge

Richard Normington wrote to the Labour Secretary of State for Transport, asking for the compulsory congestion charge to be dropped.

Text of the Letter

Rt Hon Geoff Hoon MP
Secretary of State
Department for Transport
Great Minster House

Dear Mr Hoon,

Amendment to the Transport Innovation Fund Criteria

I am writing to ask if you will use your powers as the Secretary of State to amend the Transport Innovation Fund criteria to enable successful bids that do not include the compulsory road pricing element.

Your department’s ideological attachment to compulsory congestion charging shows that its agenda is the promotion of road pricing schemes and not closing the infrastructure gap for places like Cambridgeshire. I hope change will now be possible following the time of reflection after the Manchester vote on congestion charging.

Making this amendment would enable genuine local discussions to take place, without pre-determined outcomes based on the aim of introducing new stealth taxes.

Yours sincerely,

Richard Normington

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

'Cambridge has best research ideas' - Daily Telegraph

Cambridge has the best research plans of all British universities, according to an analysis of official data published. Oxford and Cambridge are leading the field among UK universities, with high proportions of their research graded as "world leading". But Cambridge has nudged ahead, claiming the top spot in a table produced by the Press Association.

Quango Boss in a TIF

Cambridge Evening News, Letters to the Editor

Dear sir,

Today’s News reports the chief executive of Cambridgeshire’s development quango is concerned that by rejecting the congestion charge we are also turning down money for transport in the Transport Innovation Fund (TIF)

He is looking through the wrong end of the telescope. TIF is not about the extra money, it is about the introduction of congestion charging. I suggest he turns his attention to the government and asks why Labour ministers have made the congestion charge compulsory? If Labour really cared about congestion, they would drop the compulsory nature of the congestion charge and let local people decide for themselves what is best.

As for the level of funding - it is fairy gold. We are dealing with a government that, while promising action, has actually delayed upgrading our existing roads, like the A14. It has reduced in real terms, every year, the grants allocated to the County Council to enable it to provide necessary services to the people of Cambridgeshire.

I am delighted that the voters of Manchester had their chance to reject the compulsory congestion charge and that Boris Johnson kept his pledge to scrap the extension of the London congestion charge zone. I too will campaign against Labour’s blackmail transport plan for Cambridge.

Richard Normington

Monday, December 15, 2008

The A14 Choice: Upgraded or Downscaled?

For users of the A14 at the next election, voters can choose if they want it to be upgraded by Conservatives, or 'downscaled' by the Lib Dems.

The recent comments by the MP for Cambridge and the ruling group on the City Council show how out-of-touch they are with the day-to-day needs of the city.

Residents' know that the fastest way to gridlock the city's traffic is an accident on the A14. The environmental harm of stuck traffic is much greater than that of free-flowing vehicles. Furthermore, the road is a major business artery, connecting the eastern ports to the many cities of the industrial midlands. It needs upgrading urgently, and we already see the problems caused by Labour's cancellation of the Conservative roads programme in the 1990's.

Richard Normington commented, 'Cambridge needs a new voice, ready to stand up for ordinary people. Conservatives are ready to take on the medievalist-luddite sect of environmentalism that has the local Lib Dems in its grip. Our candidates for the county council election will stand on the side of improvement for the A14. We will provide local families with the chance to use a safer, swifter motorway.'

Friday, December 12, 2008

Manchester’s Vote Must Be Heard in Cambridgeshire

Richard Normington, the City’s Conservative spokesman, welcomes Manchester’s overwhelming ‘NO’ vote to the Congestion Charge/Transport Innovation Fund bid.

“I congratulate everyone who worked for this result. In particular, it is a victory for the Conservatives in the Manchester area who stood up to Labour’s blackmail transport policy.”

“Let there be no doubt where the City Conservatives stand. It is wrong to impose a new stealth tax on hard-pressed residents. It is wrong to make that tax a compulsory part of the bid for extra money to improve transport. We need change, but not a compulsory charge.”

“I expect Cambridgeshire County Council to take heed of this result and drop congestion charging from its agenda.”


Manchester's vote compares favourably to local government elections: Compare the turnout figures:

Manchester’s Congestion Charge voter turnout, 2008 – 52.3%

Cambridge City Council voter turnout, 2008 – 34.5%

County Council voter turnout, the last time it was held on a different day from the General Election, 1993, - 35.7%

Gordon Brown breaks his promise on Equitable Life

Shadow Leader of the House of Commons Theresa May asked about Equitable Life:

"I note that the Leader of the House announced a statement on Equitable Life in the first week back after Christmas. Last week, the Prime Minister promised to the House a statement on Equitable Life before Christmas. So will the Prime Minister come to the House to explain why his Chancellor is not doing what the Prime Minister promised the House he would do? Given that the Leader of the House, on numerous occasions, told us that the statement would be given in autumn, perhaps she can explain why this is the first time in living history that autumn has extended into January?"

Harriet Harman replied:

"The right hon. Lady mentioned Equitable Life. I acknowledge that we said that the statement would be ready in the autumn, but it is important to note that the issue has its roots in problems that started in the 1980s. In the summer, there was a substantial report from the ombudsman that needed consideration. We are talking about important issues, and if the Treasury needs to dot the i’s and cross the t’s, it should do so. Surely it is more important that the report is properly considered before it is brought to the House than for us to have an artificial timetable. The statement will be made in January."

It was more than moderately cheeky for Ms Harman to describe the Government's own (abandoned) timetable as "artificial".

Pensions expert Stephen Yeo commented to ConservativeHome:

"The delay is even worse than it seems at first. The Ombudsman's report took an unprecedented 4 years because the Treasury decided to submit 500 pages of prevarication in 'evidence'. Although the report was published in July, the Government would have had a draft in their possession for some months prior to then. If so minded they could have responded straight away, but they said they would do so 'in the Autumn'. Yesterday we learnt that meant January!"

Other Conservative MPs were also far from impressed. Congleton MP Ann Winterton led the charge:

"The autumn has long since gone but

“Now is the winter of our discontent”

because the Prime Minister reneged on a solemn commitment to the House, which was given in the debate on the Queen’s Speech last week, that we would have an Equitable Life statement before Christmas. What are we to say to our constituents, most of whom are elderly and many of whom live on modest means? Indeed, some have already died. When will the Government make a statement to ensure that those people are able to live better in the future, because they have been seriously disadvantaged through no fault of their own?

Ms Harman: No one thinks that this is not a serious issue, and it is because it is a serious and important matter that we wanted to ensure that the Treasury has the time necessary to consider it. On the question of what the hon. Lady should tell her constituents, she should say that the statement will be in January."

Andrew Mackay, who is a senior adviser to David Cameron, weighed in too:

"I am always anxious to give the Leader of the House the benefit of the doubt, so I accept that she was acting in good faith when she told the House in July, when the ombudsman’s report was published, that there would be a statement on Equitable Life in the autumn. I am less able to give the Prime Minister the benefit of the doubt about what he told the House during the debate on the Address:

That was only a week ago. What has happened in that week? Has the Prime Minister saved the world but lost his grip here?

Ms Harman: What was said then was that there was an expectation —[Interruption.] Well, it stands to reason, does it not, that if the statement had been ready, it would have been made, so what was being talked about was a statement that was under preparation? The preparation has taken a bit longer than anticipated, but I think that Members are going way beyond things if they are asserting that there has somehow been some calculation about the timing and that Ministers are not acting in good faith. All we have been trying to do is give a reasonable estimate of when the statement might be ready, and the latest estimate is that we hope it will be ready on the week of the 15th."


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Out of Touch on Tax

This letter from Andrew Bower was published in today's Cambridge News, but not in the online edition:
I WAS astonished to hear senior Lib Dem councillor Sian Reid declaring: "Tax is an extremely good thing" at a meeting of the city council on December 4.

She would have had a point if she had praised the principle of collective action for those in need, the provision of civic infrastructure or various public services.

She would also have been right to praise charity.

But by exalting taxation, which should be a means, not an end, she shows how out of touch the Lib Dems are.

Deputy Chairman (Political)
City of Cambridge Conservatives

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Congestion Charge Commissioner’s Credibility Gap

Sir Brian Briscoe, the Transport Commissioner appointed by the County Council, has a serious credibility gap.

As part of Reading Borough Council’s Transport Commission he proposed introducing a congestion charge and signing up to the Labour government’s Transport Innovation Fund (TIF) - which makes charging compulsory for local authorities.

Richard Normington, the Conservative parliamentary spokesman for Cambridge commented:

“Now, more than ever, is not the time to impose greater financial burdens on Cambridge businesses and residents. Cambridge needs the investment in transport, but not at the cost of Labour’s congestion charge.”

“Sir Brian himself has a serious credibility problem. His previous support for Labour's flagship transport policy puts his neutrality on the subject into question. He must work very hard to dispel the suggestion that this is a stitch-up.”

“The Commission proposes that Reading, with its neighbouring Councils, examines the case for road pricing - charging for the use of certain parts of the road system at particularly congested times.”