Fringe Box



Letter: How Could We Ignore the Congestion Charge As An Issue?

Published on: 10 Sep, 2023
Updated on: 10 Sep, 2023

Conservative Election leaflet warning of congestion charging if the Lib Dems or R4GV won the 2023 borough election.

From: Richard Mills

Conservative borough councillor for Castle ward

It is never easy to accept defeat with grace, so the local Conservative leadership has done its best to show sensitivity and restraint in the face of the self-righteous whingeing and misplaced sense of entitlement that has streamed from R4GV leaders in the months since the local elections.

But the latest missive from Julian Lyons on our congestion charging leaflet and our attitude to Robin Horsley’s position on North Street is the final straw.

Mr Lyons should know that when local Conservatives raised the congestion charge issue it was already a matter in public debate. With most of Guildford’s residents dependent on cars to access their town centre, and parking charges already hiked to unprecedented levels by R4GV, how could a responsible opposition party fail to pursue the issue?

Mr Lyons dismissively remarks in R4GV’s defence that a congestion charge was only one of numerous options under consideration but that will not wash. It was in fact a central and strongly recommended option in the transport chapter of their consultant’s report on planning strategy.

More than that, the report which promoted a congestion charge was not only accepted by the R4GV-led GBC Executive, at its meeting on September 22, 2022, substantial additional funds were provided for the consultation to continue – funds which in retrospect would have been sufficient to avoid for this year the yawning deficit with which the current council now has to struggle.

It was all very well for Mr Rigg to protest, when he subsequently saw the unsurprising response of Guildford residents, that there was no intention that the proposal be pursued. But if that was the case one is bound to ask why they had been spending money on it?

As for R4GV’s claims about Conservative attitudes to Robin Horsley’s work on North Street, the fact is we studiously refrained from commenting because we recognised that we were in no position to verify either his original claims or what R4GV subsequently said in its attempts to rebut them.

The only engagement by Conservatives was when two of our councillors in their regular newsletter drew Mr Horsley’s video to their ward members’ attention as a matter of legitimate public interest. Rather than respecting this as an appropriate contribution to public awareness and debate, R4GV’s outraged reaction smacked more of adolescent “Cancel Culture” and de-platforming.

Conservative and R4GV voters share much common ground. With the borough facing major financial and strategic challenges it is sad that so much of its leadership continues to wallow in remorse and recrimination and show itself incapable of moving on.

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Responses to Letter: How Could We Ignore the Congestion Charge As An Issue?

  1. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    September 11, 2023 at 9:09 am

    The road network in Guildford would not permit any sensible designation of an area where congestion charging could be implemented. An analysis by Guildford Society (GS) can be found in . GS had looked at setting up several zones of charging.

    The fact is that any such implementation would kill off town centre businesses, as motorists would simply avoid Guildford altogether. It is happening now because of high charges for parking and the sad fact that the council derives a majority of its income from parking charges.

    There are no suitable roads bypassing the town centre for neither the north-south movements nor the east-west movements.

    It is a waste of time to explore any congestion charging without first building a ring road or bypasses – but all too expensive and would not have any justifiable business case.

    As noted in the above-mentioned GS report, the UK Government is focussing spend on ‘Levelling Up’ which is likely to support little infrastructure investment in the Guildford Area. This is a flawed approach as Guildford needs network improvements to free up road space for pedestrians and cyclists and thus encourage active travel.

    I have been advocating for a new east-west route, removal of the gyratory and the widening of the A3 and other affordable improvements that reduce congestion.

    Many readers have seen my documents on ‘keep and share’ website for possible solutions. Those that haven’t, I refer to the one on now topical North Street development by St Edward. My suggestions for traffic improvements here are in . Other documents could also be seen once within this website.

  2. David Roberts Reply

    September 12, 2023 at 7:14 pm

    Mr Mills is being disingenuous. The Conservative Party does not have to support their maverick supporters publicly to exploit them as electoral stooges. Lenin called these people “useful idiots.”

    Here is an idea I have put to Robin Horsley, who has not denied it. In the 2019 parliamentary elections, Mole Valley Conservatives were (quite unnecessarily) running scared of UKIP, fearing that a split right-wing vote could let in the LibDems. As if by magic, Mr Horsley popped up to stand as a pro-Brexit, very right-wing candidate, splitting the UKIP vote instead. He lost his deposit, UKIP did poorly and the incumbent Remainer Tory MP was re-elected by a respectable though reduced margin.

    Was this all a put-up job to achieve just that result? Did it even need a deep-laid plan, or was it just a tacit understanding between the Tories and Mr Horsley, a former party member with an apparent taste for cloak-and-dagger politicking? And was a similar dirty trick employed, less successfully, in this year’s local elections in May? Once again, the opposition (this time R4GV) was defeated although, on this occasion, their unpopularity ensured that the Tories hardly increased their number of council seats.

    One requirement of this scenario, of course, is that the protagonists should strenuously deny being in cahoots.

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