A PETITION is more than half way to triggering a council debate on alternative plans to a congestion charge for Coventry motorists – including free public transport.
As we have reported, the government has issued a legal ‘directive’ that the council must introduce the charge for older and more polluting vehicles using streets within a city boundary.
The government claims it would cut spiralling city emissions significantly ‘in the shortest possible time’.
But it has been opposed steadfastly on all fronts in the city, prompting opposition from Labour, the Tories, the Greens and the Socialist Party.
A petition by ex-city MP, Socialist party leader and trade unionist Dave Nellist against the charge has now reached more than 8,000 signatures, he says.
It needs 15,000 to trigger a debate at a full meeting of Coventry City Council, where Mr Nellist will be given three minutes to state his case for public investment and an expanded public transport system.
Mr Nellist says he believes no petition has reached that number since the rules changed in 2010, with questions still being posed about the unrealistically high threshold for debates.
Mr Nellist said: “We currently have nearly 6,300 signatures online, 385 signatures we handed in to the council in June and 1,400 we have collected on stalls since then.”
The petition reads: “We, the undersigned, object to the government imposition of a congestion charge in Coventry.
“We want determined action to improve air quality, protect people’s health, and tackle climate change, but this should be a collective responsibility, not a personal cost.
“The best solution to transport-related air pollution would be free public transport in the city, using environmentally friendly powered vehicles, with proper public investment and planning of rail and bus services in the public interest, not private profit.”
The Socialist Party held the first of a series of public meetings at the end of July at which 50 people from the Stoke and Charterhouse area attended.
Mr Nellist added: “Just before the meeting started someone from one of the city’s temples left 160 signatures they had collected, and several of those attending the meeting took away petition sheets to collect from family, friends and neighbours.
“Our next job is to start a list of some of the employers in the current projected charging zone, which covers 80,000 residents and 52,000 workers in over 3,000 small businesses and to visit them to see if their employees would also sign the petition.”
Cabinet member for jobs and regeneration Coun Jim O’Boyle told us residents could have to wait until at least the end of August for a decision on whether the government will accept the council’s alternative modelling, and renege on the charge.
The sign the petition visit here.