Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook may have observed an amusing little back and forth between two councillors of my acquaintance (one York Labour, one Salford Tory), plus interested by-standers. It has so far taken in the issues of: social justice and whether Tories care about it; evil; Jesus Christ; the Labour candidate for Skipton and Ripon; and, obviously, the Greater Manchester congestion charge.
The bollocks being spouted about the latter in this one Facebook thread alone demonstrates just how much the ‘No’ campaign are being allowed to get away with. Specifically, Cllr Lindley repeatedly refers to the congestion charge as ‘taxing lower-income families £1200 a year’.
There are so many things wrong with that phrase I’d like to take it a few words at a time. First of all – ‘tax’. It’s not a tax. It is – or rather will be – a very specific charge for traffic going towards Manchester city centre between 0700-0930 and traffic going away from the city centre between 1600-1830, Monday to Friday only. Only 1 in 10 Greater Manchester residents will pay it; even among weekday peak-time drivers, less than 20% will pay.
Moving along, Cllr ‘Champion of the working class’ Lindley* apparently thinks that this 20% will comprise ‘lower-income families’. I’ve been trying to think of a reason why all of Greater Manchester’s lower-income families would be more likely than anybody else to spend their day driving back and forth across the charging rings at peak time, but so far I got nothin’ – what I do know is:
– shift workers are unlikely to pay the charge at all;
– the lowest paid workers who would incur a charge because their workplace is located within the M60 motorway will, under the current proposals, be eligible for a charging discount of up to 20%;
– and, as announced last week, low-paid workers using public transport will be entitled to a 20 per cent discount on bus and tram tickets.
So, this ‘£1200 a year’ tax that Cllr Lindley would like us all to fear – where’s that come from? Easy. On the GM Future Transport website, the average charge drivers would pay, under the current proposals and at 2013 prices, would be less than £3.50 per day. Linders the maths whiz has rounded this up to £3.50; multiplied that by 365 to get £1277.50; and then, in an attempt at being a reasonable sort of chap, has rounded it down to £1200.
Except, of course, that that’s not reasonable at all. For one thing, the charge will only apply on weekdays. Say there are 260 weekdays in a year, with an average of £3.50 per day – that’s £910 per year. And that’s assuming people drive at peaktimes EVERY SINGLE WEEKDAY, including Bank Holidays and Christmas; AND that’s the average charge, i.e. higher than the one the lowest-income families will pay.
Even if I’ve disastrously cocked up the Maths there, and it’s by no means impossible, the biggest reason for disregarding this ridiculous ‘£1200 a year tax’ claim is not the number but the fact that it completely ignores the vast majority of people who WILL NOT PAY IT AT ALL. I know I’ve already said that in this post, but people seem to have trouble taking it in so I shall say it again. Hence:
9 in 10 people won’t pay it
9 in 10 people WON’T pay it
9 IN 10 PEOPLE WON’T PAY IT
And here is today’s reason to VOTE YES on the TIF bid come December: did you know that 9 IN 10 PEOPLE WON’T PAY THE CONGESTION CHARGE?
*Apologies. I should point out that Cllr Lindley bought me a spinach and lentil burger this lunchtime, so it would be wrong to imply he never does anything for Greater Manchester’s most impoverished…