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The Confusion Charge: the gathering storm

Jonathan Schofield and the case of the missing Big Yellow Buses...or maybe their multiplication

Written by . Published on October 7th 2008.


The Confusion Charge: the gathering storm

As the jockeying for advantage in the Congestion Charge poll on 11 December heats up, Confidential’s getting confused.

On Monday 6 October we received this from Councillor Dave Goddard, the Liberal Democrat leader of Stockport Council. He really doesn’t like the Congestion Charge and he really doesn’t like the way the Vote Yes campaign operates.

Councillor Dave wrote:

‘Can I urge your readers to check the fine detail of the proposals for a congestion charge and transport improvements through the Transport Innovation Fund (TIF). As Leader of one of the ten councils considering the congestion charge, I want to warn your readers that the package does not add up.

The latest example of misinformation involves the supposed ‘huge’ new fleet of yellow school buses. On September 9, TIF campaigners issued a press release about the expansion of the yellow bus school programme boasting of an extra 120 buses across Greater Manchester. Lord Peter Smith, Chair of the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities promised a “total transformation of the school run of the future.”

However information sent direct to my council by TIF on September 7 reveals that by 2013, there are plans for eight yellow school buses in our borough - a rise of exactly ONE on the current figure of seven. Is this what they call a huge expansion? Is this going to transform our school run? The answer has to be no.

More worryingly, we feel this information is being suppressed. We were given the information about the one yellow school bus in a draft copy of an advertisement, due to be placed by TIF in local newspapers. We of course queried the statistic. And when the advert was published, all reference to yellow buses had been removed. Is this honest and open communication?

This is wrong and should not be happening at a time when the public ought to have transparent and robust information on this controversial project. Unfortunately, it is not the first time we have had to suffer misinformation over TIF and we now have to ask ourselves if we can trust the information they are putting in the public domain.

An independent survey carried out by our council has shown more than two-thirds of our residents and three-quarters of our businesses did not support the introduction of a congestion charge. We will maintain a policy of opposition as long as the public of Stockport remains opposed.’

Crikey, Dave, say it as you see it will you? So in his eyes the deception seems incontrovertible. We’re having the wool pulled over our eyes. The investment is a fake.

So we called the Yes vote people and sent them a copy of the letter: asked for a reply.

It was as forthright as the words of Councillor Dave.

“Unfortunately Council Goddard has got his facts completely wrong,” Dan Hodges (name added subsequent to posting), Director of the Yes campaign, told us. “He should read the information properly. Stockport will be receiving eight additional school buses, so the number will rise from seven to fifteen.

“This letter,” he continued, “coming only 24 hours after Kelloggs’ Communications Director [a company opposed to the congestion charge] was forced to admit he was unaware of whether the congestion charge boundary would affect his company raises question marks about the credibility of those opposing the transport investment package.”

Go on, get in there lad.

Still you have to wonder about the level of confusion surrounding the details of the transport innovation plan. If the leader of Stockport Council has got it this badly wrong then what hope for the ordinary Joe? Or maybe Councillor Dave knows something we don’t.

Two things are certain.

First off, the Yes campaign has its work cut out in getting their message across. Secondly we’re in for a fruity time of passionate electioneering over the coming months. Things might get dirty.

Makes local politics interesting again, doesn’t it?

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49 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Karen HOctober 7th 2008.

It's a typical fudge with two points. Why do we need yellow (American) buses for schools when we have loads of other buses. And how can the Leader of out Council get this so wrong?

overtaxedOctober 7th 2008.

The TIF don't put out information, just propaganda. Reminds me of when Ted Heath lied about the benefits of becoming a member of the EEC.The NO vote stand no chance against Government funded fascists.

KlunkersOctober 7th 2008.

What do you expect? The truth? Lets set Councillor Dave loose on the traffic light system and see if he can find proof that the timings have been changed to INCREASE congestion.What about the 50% reduction of road capacity by the pointless Bus routes.Come on everyone, lets have the roads back for the road users that paid for it in the first place.

Dr. KellyOctober 7th 2008.

I once stood up to the government and look what happenened to me........

AnonymousOctober 7th 2008.

Since when have road users been paying for road use? That's what road pricing is for! Do you seriously think your poxy road tax has in any substantial way funded what's out there.

joOctober 7th 2008.

i'm sick of the lot of em! GET LABOUR OUT GET LABOUR OUT GET LABOUR OUT GET LABOUR OUT

Glynn JonesOctober 7th 2008.

This congestion charge is morally corrupt. Let's stop wasting money on propoganda now.

walter gropiusOctober 7th 2008.

Two things. First of all, the scale of the investment is so big that it's completely understandable that Mr Goddard got confused. 3,500 park and ride spaces? 98 trams? 7,000 new train seats? 21 interchanges? It's easy to lose yourself in the numbers... maybe that says something about the proposals? Like perhaps - IT'S A GOOD IDEA...?And that reminds me - it might just be my reading of things, but why do all the 'no' people 'USE SO MANY CAPITAL LETTERS' in their online postings??? Far be it from me to suggest this, but could it be that the anti-TIF brigade attracts, well, a certain angry element that is pretty pissed off at the world and are using our transport referendum as a bit of a punchbag? Just a thought...

anonymous (maybe)October 7th 2008.

Do you teach at Chets Glynn? Used to know a teacher by your name when I was there

Councillor Dave goddard, Leader of Stockport CouncilOctober 7th 2008.

So that your readers can make up their own minds, the exact words in the draft advert written by TIF are: "There are 7 Yellow School Buses serving 4 schools in Stockport today. With GM Future Transport and other funding, it is planned to have 8 buses in the District by 2013." For clarity, I also asked David Leather the interim Chief Executive of the PTE for his views on this. He wrote to me:"The final numbers of vehicles will be determined through further dialogue with Local Education Authorities, so a firm figure for the specific Stockport TIF deployment can’t be provided at this stage." David did let me know that TIF-funded yellow buses in our area will help pupils at schools such as Hazel Grove High School; St Ambrose College in Trafford; Parrs Wood Technology College and Levenshulme High School in Manchester; and St Thomas Moore School in Tameside. Your eagle-eyed readers will spot that contains exactly ONE school in Stockport. How remarkable that an anonymous spokesman for the Yes campaign is now making announcements about "eight buses" using facts that even David Leather can't confirm. It still looks to me like Stockport's 38,000 schoolchildren will be getting only one yellow bus. Perhaps Mr Yes thinks that one yellow bus can make multiple journeys through the rush hour?

AnonymousOctober 7th 2008.

Anonymous - motoring taxes (fuel duty/RFL/etc) last year contributed several times the total spend on road AND public transport. The Government makes several £bn profit from motoring taxes. Thus the notion of road pricing is therefore wholly inappropriate from a 'fairness' perspective.

MatthewOctober 7th 2008.

Dave Goddard is disappearing up his own arse on this. He cocked up and now he's running scared. Perhaps he should catch a tram? Or even a yellow bus.Whatever happened to the Lib Dem's 'passionate' championing of the environment? Total hypocrites - they won't take the tough decisions necessary to bring change. Complete wankers.I wonder if Dave has the use of an official council car? Perhaps he can pick up some pedestrians waiting at the bus stop next time?I am voting for £3billion for public transport locally and a congestion charge that 9 out of 10 people won't pay (except perhaps for Dave and his mates who run the Trafford Centre).

GaryOctober 7th 2008.

Matthew - how will 9 out of 10 people not pay it?? If if that were the case - how the hell will it make money with so few people paying??

joOctober 7th 2008.

Gary...you beat me to it!!

BecksOctober 7th 2008.

Erm. I am really confused. But any way .... i know our public transport provision isn't great but actually, does it need that much improvement? The Metrolink is plastered with YES posters where they don't usually put posters saying things like "do you want more seats. more stops". Presumably it's supposed to be rhetorical. Well i am not sure i do want more seats or stops. Who can't get to work as it is?

C.WOctober 7th 2008.

Karen H, obviously does'nt have kids who use ordinary buses.If she did she would realise most drivers wont let schoolkids on their bus if they have an official school bus

GaryOctober 7th 2008.

Becks - this isn't about getting to work. This is about the council getting their hands on £3bn. Half of which will be given to their cronies (the majority of the businesses conveniently and suprisingly in support of the scheme - ASK, Bruntwood, et al) the rest will go on a few extra miles of tram lines, a few extra yellow buses, a load of extra paint on the roads (making it harder still to drive on the roads) and a couple of new stations for people outside of Manchester.

LauraOctober 7th 2008.

I think if you're going to quote from each side, you need to be transparent about exactly who you've spoken to, rather than just saying "a yes campaign spokesman"...I personally wouldn't trust anything said by someone who remains totally anonymous. Was that ManCon's decision or at their request?

maholy nagyOctober 7th 2008.

The YES spokespeople are clearly named in the MEN today... in fact that looks like a whole interview with the new chair, with piccy and everything. Hardly faceless!!!

donnaOctober 7th 2008.

what happened to unbiased reporting? I'd really appreciate it if Manc confidential just reported the facts as they're presented, I certainly don't need a 'go on get in there lad' response to a quote by someone so important we haven't even been given their names (which yes campaign spokesman??). I have in no way been convinced by the yes propaganda plastering every local rag and bus stop and living in Worsley have yet to be given a valid response as to what will happen to the already woefully inadequate public transport in these parts (metrolink extensions do not benefit me or anyone else in these parts).

BobLOctober 7th 2008.

I see that the City Council is spending a fortune on promoting the 'Yes' vote but are they supporting the 'No' vote equally or is it a one sided proposition.Where are the 'No' vote campaign headquarters?

GaryOctober 7th 2008.

Due to legalities over a referendum, the 'NO' camp (i.e. GMMG) are not allowed to campaign or advertise openly whereas MCC can use a loophole and spend public money compaigning for their 'YES' vote.

yes ladyOctober 7th 2008.

I am lucky in that I walk to work - but I hear all my colleagues tell me everyday how rubbish their journey into work is. I will not pay the congestion charge - neither will any of them, but we will all benefit. they will get better journeys - i aill get less ear ache. Anyone who is palnning to vote no is a fool and should for once try to look at the benfits of the situation instead of always trying to find the negatives.Plus the 9 out of 10 not paying figure must be based on the number of people who come into and out of Manchester everyday - most either on public transport (a lot more people will be able to do this by 2013) or at different times of the day from when the charge will be made.

Jonathan Schofield - editorOctober 7th 2008.

Right had a chat, had a word, the name of the spokesperson was Dan Hodges, Director of the Yes Campaign. It's equalled up now and hey folks the point of the article is the disparity of opinion about a simple point which should easily cleared up.

CuriousOctober 7th 2008.

So how come Dan Hodges of Yes does not agree with David Leather of the PTE. How come Dan Hodges claims to know more about yellow buses than David Leather, who is supposed to be in charge of this.I thought they were both meant to be on the same side. Confused or what. Is this the same Dan Hodges, who "left" Transport for London last year after a joke statement was issued? Is this another joke?

AnonymousOctober 7th 2008.

Yes Lady - but if 90% of people currently work or get public transport, there wouldn't be an issue would there...? The TIF is a con to get £3bn while delivering very little to very few - the so-called benefits. Please stop calling people who can see through this spin as fools.

Artie FufkinOctober 7th 2008.

I think the journalist here should be strung up, he's got it wrong not the good councillor.How can you conclude that question marks are raised over the "credibility of those opposing the transport investment package.” because Kellogs appear to be against the con charge in principle not simply becasue they are going to be hit by it. i'd say the fact Kellogs are against it even though they are not necarily hit by it gives them more credibility.The confusion is with numty journalists and the limkes of Dan Hodges of the yes campaign. P.s. I've never know a liberal democracy spend £3m of public money on trying to sway the vote electorate of the electorate. It's a disgrace worthy of 1930's Germany of Zimabwe today ratehr than a proud liberal democracy. SHAME

No JohnOctober 7th 2008.

Is the No Campaign REALLY barred from...er...campaigning?What I object to - and what will cause me to believe that No only is the answer - is how The Yes Lot insist that t will be good for all of us, we'll all benefit, etc. Well, where have you lot been for the last 11 years? This is a country where insidious and invidious creeping law- and policy-making have not contributed anything at all to the common good. Go on: think of at least one? Banning fox-hunting?Would you really entrust the current regimes, whether at nationalor regional level, with our money so that they will do something with it in the future, because they promised to? The ost will go up and promises will not be kept. The promised benefits will not materialise.Are you still thinking of a decent example of a law or policy that has truly benefitted all of us? I've just thought of one: minimum wgae. Your turn...

JamesOctober 7th 2008.

Artie Fufkin bless you. Manchester Confidential is a pretty intelligent forum and most of the debaters can spell and use grammar. You're like some Evening News idiot. Not sure the de Menezes trial would have taken place in the 1930s in Hitler's Germany. Now spot the deliberate mistake.

jennieOctober 7th 2008.

The congestion charge will no doubt be forced on Manchester and other cities around the country sooner or later by the government. At least by adopting the scheme now we will get at least some benefits for some people around Manchester. The scheme cannot possibly please all of the people, but it is at least an improvement on what we have now.

JoOctober 7th 2008.

Yes Lady - do you really think that you won't pay - we will ALL pay, in some way regardless of whether you walk, get a bus/train or drive!

Ali McGowanOctober 7th 2008.

The CC is a pile of crap and the TIF is a joke. London gets 10s of £billions for TfL for its 10m people and a small congestion zone [as a % of the over all size of London]... yes Greater Manc has around 2.5 million people and we're gona get... £1.5bn plus a bloody loan. What a completely bum deal. The whole thing is piecemeal - continuing the previous Big Bang tram fiasco [errrm the Big Bang we should have had years ago]. So, everyone with any common sense, please VOTE NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)

Tim SharpeOctober 7th 2008.

It's a bloody loan, repaid by something which it's designed to remove. No thanks; billions of pounds of debt isn't what the people of Manchester need.It's like getting a mortgage based on a job that makes you redundant. Vote no.

GaryOctober 7th 2008.

Consumer public transport costs (i.e. Ticket Prices) in London increased by an average of 20% the month that Congestion Charging came into force - and London has plenty of choice for ALL Londoners with public transport. With the oligopoly that controls Manchester's public transport - what do YOU think will happen to ticket prices?? If you are lucky, they might only raise as much as motorist will pay extra each year! No-one really wins out of this except transport companies and the council favoured contractors (i.e. United City members) who will take most of the £3bn as profit as they build the miniscule imporovements to the public transport infrastructure.

Artie fufkinOctober 7th 2008.

James you cheeky scamp! In a quick post, surely you can forgive the odd typo. I'm quite aware that Britain is not exactly like Hitler's Germany, the trains don't run on time for a start. I am suggesting, however, that in a free and fair referendum, the state should not be looking to influence the electorate with £3m of public money being spent on propaganda.

GaryOctober 7th 2008.

Artie - you are quite correct. But welcome to a modern, Labour controlled democracy (where nitpicking about typos is far more important than real-world issues!)

Artie FufkinOctober 7th 2008.

NO John, The 'no' campaign can of course campaign but there is no £3m advertising campaign courtesy of the public purse. In fact, it's made up of one man and a shark with a few well meaning society concious individuals trying to ensure the less astute realise the concequenses of this degenerative tax. THe yes campaign is preying on the less intelligent and simple people who can be hoodwinked into supporting a plan which will only help a few key council personnel get some cushy jobs with remuneration reflecting a role way beyond their natural abilities despite the loan they are comitting to will not only kill the local economy but leave the council tax payer with a liabilty that cannot be financed

GaryOctober 7th 2008.

Actually Artie, the 'no' campaign (GMMG) cannot openly campaign. I don’t remember the statute which forbids it, but if you ask the GMMG they will explain why. The council/GMPTE can campaign through a ‘public interest’ loop-hole. Hence why you are not seeing bill-posters telling the truth about the TIF proposal – instead just the spin, mis-information and con-stories to persuade more people to vote for this windfall gift for the council and their cronies.

Chris Palmer - VOTE YESOctober 7th 2008.

Just to make clear the VOTE YES Campaign does not receive a penny of public funding. GMMG and Peel Holdings are perfectly able to campaign - hence their ads with a man in a fish suit.

Artie FufkinOctober 7th 2008.

I understood the chap in the shark outfit wasn't part of any organised campaign.If it's correct that the no's cannot advertise in hte same way as the 'yes' campaign, that is effin outrageous. You'd wonder what sort of democracy we have left.The Vote Yes campaign itself is financed by a set of companies for reasons I think we can all make our own minds about. However, the TIF campaign with it's roadshow, hoardings and TV ads featuring down on their luck ex corrie actors have all been financed by the public purse. It's a flippin disgrace.

Chris Palmer - VOYE YESOctober 7th 2008.

The reason Gary cannot remember the statute is because it just doesn't exist - the no campaign is perfectly free to place their own advertisements. This of course is why their advert with the fish is currently appearing on a sign board in Piccadilly - yet another classic example of deliberate misinformation I’m afraid. There will be lot more of this before the referendum is complete.PS - Artie - the man dressed as a fish is the official mascot of the no campaign.

JoOctober 7th 2008.

The 'yes' camp say its a fish, the 'no' camp say it's a shark...which is it?

Artie FufkinOctober 7th 2008.

Chris Palmer, It's good to see you are no longer voting Yes. I think gary is actually right, up until a certain date, the campaign was not allowed. The propaganda we had with adverts on buses etc was not supposed to be backing one or the other and whilst that was going on, the nice people on the no side had to watch whilst the brainwashing campaign went on.

mr blueOctober 7th 2008.

Very few people here are being objective at all. Many as Walter says are simply using it to vent anger about other issues (e.g labour, tax etc). The debate should be about one thing only: is the TIF better or worse for Manchester. Are the proposed public transport improvements worth the price of the congestion charge? All the other rants and conspiracy theories just distract from and cloud the issue (is that their intention perhaps?).And side issues about alledged inequality "a certain angry element that is pretty pissed off at the world using our transport referendum as a bit of a punchbag."

mr blueOctober 7th 2008.

oops. didnt mean to include Walters quote there "and side issues..". Dont want to be accused of plagiarism now.

Artie FufkinOctober 7th 2008.

Mr Blue, I'm not sure you are right. It's too simple to ask are the transport improvments worth the cost of congestion charging? If I were to answer from a selfish point of view, I'd say OK go for it, I'll not have to pay the CC very often and extra trams and buses will no doubt help a little bit in keeping the riff raff off the roads. However, the company I work for cannot afford to increase the salaries of all staff be over £2,000 and I'm sure hundreds are similar. Furthermore, an extra cost on delivery etc just means the firm sill be uncompetitive with the rest of the country and world. The company will relocate, jobs will go etc etc. Employers will be put off moving here so the emplyment probelms will multiply. I will be alright but that is a selfish attitude which I'm afraid is the attitude of the pro-campaign. There are implications to the congestion which go beyond costing the commuter more money, the economy is under huge pressure and adding more uncertainty and cost is not the way forward.

No JohnOctober 7th 2008.

Artie has it about right: why should we gamble with the certainty of paying extra costs/taxes/charges, with the vague...er...promise that all funding will be matched.Whoever posted the relative funding for London compared to Manchester makes a good point. Any amount of money being thrown at London just about works.A pootlingly small amount ear-marked for Manchester will not make that much difference.Why should we have to pay again for a service - for that's what a coherent, comprehensive transport policy really is - that we ought to have already is beyond me.

AnonymousOctober 7th 2008.

anonymous, the one who seems to think the 90% won't pay as already using public transport, they mean 90% of journeys won't be chargeable FOOL! And at what point will people realise that all the other so called motoring related taxes are not spent on PT. Which of our schools and hospitals would you like us to close so we can ring fence that money instead for the investments needed?

AnonymousOctober 7th 2008.

Forget the 90% won't pay. If this TIF bid is accepted everyone will pay whether they drive or not. Every business caught up in this stealth tax will pass on their extra charges to the customer that is you and me! The Yes Group are funding their campaign from the public purse. This is nothing more than yet another stealth tax. Make sure your vote counts. Vote NO to Congestion Charging before 10 December.

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