There will be an extra Christmas present for motorists this year with the abolition of the western extension of the Congestion Charge. Christmas Eve will be the last day it will be in operation. The shops of the Portbello Road that have struggled through the recession will be hoping the January sales will be a bit more lucrative than in recent years.
Unfortunately for this to be confirmed there has to be one final consultation. This is exasperating for west Londoners who have been consulted to death on the matter repeatedly made clear they don't want it and find it is still in operation. Don't blame Boris for this – this endless consultation is a statutory requirement. Just click here and make your views clear one last time. The deadline is August 2.
As Shaun Bailey has said:
The charge doesn't just hurt those inside it: the burden falls heavily on those just outside it. too. It causes terrible congestion in my part of London, Hammersmith. Shepherd's Bush Green is essentially a car park now. Worse, it's like a Berlin Wall between us and Kensington. It's a barrier to families from taking their kids to a school just over the border, to the success of local small business and to the expectant mother needing to get to Chelsea & Westminster's maternity unit.
Even more perverse is the tale of the Edward Woods Estate in Shepherds Bush. Cut off from the rest of the borough of Hammersmith & -Fulham by the West Cross Route and Holland Park roundabout, it sits in the western extension of the zone. This hits some of London's lowest earners with yet another bill of £201.60 a year (their -residents' discount permit) on top of the rocketing cost of living.
Among the Edward Woods residents are shift workers who need their cars as they cannot rely on public transport at the anti-social hours they start or finish and tradesmen who need vans to carry tools. And I will never blame families for wanting to use their car to ease the burden of the school run or the supermarket trip.
You could say the Edward Woods Estate is no different from anywhere else. It is home to people who want to get on with their lives. But the C-charge extension places them in an artificial island, hindering them in doing so.
Of course from the cost of all the unnecessary consultation there is also the delay. The motorists Berlin Wall could have been lifted by now. (Which incidentally would probably have meant rather more votes for Shaun emanating from the Edward Woods Estate earlier this month.)
City Hall spends millions a year on consultation. But they are not alone. We have about 500 councils in the UK what is the average annual spending on consultation? £0.5 million? £1 million? £2 million? I don't know but it must be huge. Of course local government is only a bit of the public sector. I wouldn't be surprised if the state spends over £1 billion a year on consultation – the vast majority of it wasted.
The real consultation exercises are elections. Councils should have the discretion to hold consultations where they feel it would be genuine and valid. But ultimately it should be for elected politicians, both local and national, to get with making the decisions.