The debate over transport is hotting up. The Government's White Paper on the subject is scheduled for next May - although its consultation process ended last month. Everyone is agreed on the need to reduce car dependency, and one radical solution is to charge vehicles a fee for travelling into city centres. Leicester City Council set up an experiment two months ago to charge volunteer drivers on oneroute into the centre. If successful, other city councils may well follow suit.
But the idea is one to which businesses are reacting with alarm. 'We are totally opposed to making drivers pay,' says Manchester Chamber of Commerce's policy manager, Ian Kerr. A levy on lorries is one concern, but so is the impact on the company car. Adds Kerr: 'If you make things difficult for company car users, you run the risk of deterring investors as well as driving out existing companies.' The fear that road pricing could drive custom out of certain city centres is also voiced by Peter Stillwell, chief executive at Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce: 'Road pricing is a major debate which the business community views with great apprehension.
We don't totally reject it if it's done across the board. Otherwise, the city's economic strength and competitive edge could be lost to, say, Glasgow, if that city decides not to do it.'