Congestion charge rise mauled by local traders

Plans to increase London's congestion charge were condemned as "unacceptable" by the capital's business lobby this week.

Mayor Ken Livingstone announced that he has asked Transport for London (TfL) to consult on plans to increase the charge from £5 to £8 for private cars. He also proposed a smaller increase to £7 for commercial vehicles.

Hailing the charge as an "unprecedented success" in reducing traffic, pollution and accidents in central London, Livingstone said: "I want one large increase this mayoral term to maintain the effectiveness of the charge and raise revenue to further reduce congestion."

The proposed increase will be accompanied by a raft of measures to make paying the charge easier, the mayor insisted. This will include 15 per cent discounts for monthly and yearly payments and more petrol stations where drivers can pay the charge.

But London First, the capital's business campaign group, slammed the idea of increasing the charge. While admitting that the mayor has made some concessions with a reduction in the threshold for fleet registration from 25 to ten vehicles, chief executive Jo Valentine still struck a note of warning.

"We have yet to see the justification for such an increase and have serious doubts about the hassle involved with paying," explained Valentine. "The mayor cannot expect support without substantial improvements."

London Chamber of Commerce chief executive Colin Stanbridge warned that businesses already hit by a loss of custom since the introduction of the charge could suffer further from any increase.

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