An article written by Cardiff Councillor and Prospective Assembly Member for Cardiff North – Joel Williams:
So. Labour-run Cardiff Council have outlined plans for a congestion charge on all motorists coming into the City. Let me start by saying that we all want to see a reduction in harmful levels of pollution to improve the health of residents and commuters. When I visited the Welsh Assembly earlier this week, I was pleased to learn that a Welsh Conservative Government would introduce a Clean Air Act which would ensure we see the changes and improvements needed clean up our air. So lets shout from the rooftops that those on the right care about our environment and the health of our Nation and we’re prepared to legislate!
In an attempt to woo the residents of Cardiff, the Council are stating their preferred option is that residents in Cardiff are exempt from paying the congestion charge. Is this proposal about congestion and improving air quality? – it would appear neither… let me explain why. We know that public transport in not only Cardiff but across Wales is grossly inadequate and we’ve been let down for twenty years by a Welsh Government tasked with economic development. Before any charge is even considered there must be the adequate public transport alternatives such as improved bus connectivity with cross-city routes and better rail links.
In order to improve air quality in the City Centre why not complete the ring road around Cardiff?! Many major cities have a ring road to get vehicles out of the City Centre and Cardiff is definitely in need of improved road connectivity. Don’t get me started on Welsh Labour’s failed and broken M4 Relief Road promise- their argument about financial and environmental objections can be easily neutralised; UK Government have offered to pay AND in the next two decades we’ll see a shift from fossil fuel powered vehicles to hybrids and electrics meaning the environmental objection should not outweigh the compelling need to see this vital project.
As Prospective Assembly Member for Cardiff North and as a Cardiff Councillor I can’t support Cardiff Labour’s flawed proposals because in my view they will ultimately lead to the charging of all residents and this can’t be right without first having the public transport alternatives. For years and years Welsh Labour having been promising the public transport improvements BUT where are they?! Also I haven’t heard much discussion from Cardiff Labour on the impact their proposals could have on our local businesses. Its tough enough as it is for businesses in Wales as they don’t benefit from the reduction in business rates which have taken place in England (because Welsh Labour have control over business rates in Wales). Just to confirm that Welsh Conservatives support businesses in Wales and would reduce business rates for small and medium sized businesses. The proposed congestion charge could put local shops out of business as commuters will avoid going into the City Centre and instead shop online. I haven’t mentioned that some Welsh Labour politicians would like to see a car parking levy, have I?! This is another bonkers suggestion that will hit businesses hard.
In summary it’s interesting to read the concerns of Labour leaders outside of Cardiff in the South Wales region highlighting the lack of adequate public transport alternatives to avoid using the car- I agree with them! If you asked me to predict what I think will happen- I reckon Cardiff Labour will send this proposal down to Cardiff Bay to sign off and they’ll implement a blanket charge (hopefully this column will make Cardiff Labour think again). Thanks to Centre for Welsh Studies for asking me to write this column- I hope you’ve found it informative and thought-provoking.