Congestion charge ‘no’ brings relief

By Jonathan Kalmus, December 18, 2008

Manchester communal groups have expressed relief at the overwhelming no vote against a proposed local congestion charge.

If the plan had been supported, drivers would have been charged for travel between the major Jewish areas of Whitefield and Prestwich.
Welfare charity The Fed said its operations would have been severely affected. Head of services Mark Cunningham had feared a big increase in running costs.

“Our social workers, staff and volunteers move around the community on a daily basis, taking people out who cannot use public transport, and visiting people at home, in hospital and care homes. They would have crossed the proposed boundaries numerous times a day.”

Manchester Jewish Community Care chief executive Michelle Wiseman believed the charge “would have been unfair on staff and a charitable organisation struggling for revenues”.

There was also delight at the King David schools, where some parents had expressed outrage at the prospect of having to pay to take their children by car. Chair of governors Joshua Rowe said that “while many parents appreciated the benefits of the scheme and the vision of the council, they nevertheless found that, on balance, there were too many hurdles to overcome.”

The crushing rejection of the proposal was a blow to Manchester City Council chief executive and local Jewish personality Sir Howard Bernstein.

“The referendum has given a very clear outcome,” he acknowledged. “I’m sure the economic downturn, which is hitting everyone hard, has had a part to play. Investment in public transport in Manchester will remain a priority.”

Last updated: 4:04pm, July 23 2009