Page last updated at 14:06 GMT, Friday, 30 January 2009

'Transport tax' proposal rejected

Traffic on Deansgate, Manchester
Businesses will not be asked to help reduce congestion

Proposals to charge Greater Manchester firms to help fund public transport improvements have been rejected by political leaders.

Council chiefs met on Friday to discuss increasing business rates and charging firms a levy on city centre parking spaces they provide for staff.

The idea was raised after the public rejection of congestion charging.

But Susan Williams, leader of Trafford Council, said the new fundraising idea was "not a workable solution".

Mrs Williams told the BBC there had been agreement from all political parties at the meeting that hitting business during a recession was not an option.

"I think we are all agreed that workplace parking just does not work because all people do is not park at work and park somewhere else in the surrounding area," she said.

"So I think there's pretty much universal agreement that that just wasn't a workable solution."

'Hammering business'

Mrs Williams said there had also been broad agreement on the option of supplementary business rates (SBR) because the businesses community had not been consulted.

She added that it "really would be the wrong time to talk about hammering businesses even more".

The Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) report said the SBR scheme could have raised a total of 38m in its first year of operation.

Although members of AGMA voted in favour of the report, Mrs Williams said it was a paper of options and not firm plans.

Nearly two million people were asked to vote in December 2008 on a peak-time road charge to open up a 2.8bn transport investment.

A majority of voters in all of the region's 10 boroughs voted against the plans, with 812,815 (79%) no votes and 218,860 (21%) in favour of the charge.

It meant AGMA's application for government Transport Innovation Fund (TiF) cash could not go ahead, and left officials searching for other ways of raising cash for transport improvements.

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