Call for Bristol congestion charge vote
Opponents of congestion charges are calling for the people of Bristol to be given a chance to vote on the issue – on local elections day, June 4.
Tory calls for a Bristol referendum have been rejected by the city council before.
But now the party says holding a poll on the same day as city council and European Parliament elections would save much of the cost.
A referendum in Manchester late last year saw congestion charging roundly rejected by the electorate.
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And local Conservatives believe Bristol voters would also give road tolls the thumbs-down.
Tory Parliamentary candidate for Bristol North West, Charlotte Leslie, has launched an online petition, which has already collected 400 names.
It calls for a poll on June 4. "With other elections on the same days in the city, there would be negligible extra cost," said Ms Leslie.
She told the Bristol Post: "It is unfair that people in Manchester should have a say about the introduction of a road toll, but Bristol people do not.
"There are arguments for and against the road toll. We all want improved public transport and easier road access in the city.
"It would be very little extra effort, and hardly any extra cost, for the council to hold a referendum at the same time as the local and European Parliament elections in June.
"I cannot see any argument against letting the people of Bristol have their say over the future of transport in their city."
But Councillor Mark Bradshaw, executive member for transport, said the Tories were playing "party political games".
He said Bristol City Council, as one of the West of England authorities (with North Somerset, South Gloucestershire and Bath and North East Somerset), had an option to bid for the government's Transport Innovation Fund (TIF).
This would bring around £840 million to the West to fund improved transport options for over one million people.
"TIF offers councils a unique opportunity to transform local public transport systems to a very high standard, including local rail provision, and improve the options for our residents and businesses," said Mr Bradshaw.
"Improvements need to be made before demand management could be introduced."
Mr Bradshaw said: "Bristol (and the other West of England authorities) have not yet decided on whether to bid to the Transport Innovation Fund.
"But we are not simply going to reject the possibility given the demand for better, more integrated public transport and the need for a huge injection of funding to pay for this.
"Though the West of England Partnership is exploring various models for congestion charging, which could be part of this bid if it occurs, it is a long way from any firm proposals.
"A referendum on the matter would serve only to distract focus and energy from bringing forward the rapid transit proposals and in competing for enhanced funding for our sub-region through the latest Regional Funding Advice (RFA).
"The West of England RFA proposals include further rapid transit routes, the Portishead rail service, and various road improvements to relieve congestion.
"This is our priority. Those who call for a referendum seem to forget that people have grown impatient for real change in our public transport choices and that superficial party political game playing is not the answer.
"The needs of Bristol and the sub-region are too important to be treated as a sideshow for political advantage."