The deputy chair of Transport for London, Daniel Moylan, discussed the possibility of keeping the controversial western extension of the congestion charge with one of Boris Johnson’s senior advisers, it can be revealed.
Removal of the western extension was a key Boris pledge during the 2008 election and the mayor has previously stated that the charge will end this December.
Mr Moylan, who is also deputy leader of Kensington & Chelsea council, the authority covering most of the western extension’s area, said there was a possibility that the council could take over the running of the charge. The Greater London Authority Act gives London boroughs, as well as the mayor, the power to introduce their own local congestion charges, but the mayor must give his consent.
Having been fiercely opposed to the charge when it was originally introduced in 2007, the council is now officially neutral on the issue. Sir Merrick Cockell, the council leader, said today: “It has been raised as a possibility. Our position on the western extension is that we are sitting on the fence on it. But I think it would probably be too much trouble to do at a time when we are facing other issues.”
Mr Moylan said today: “I raised with the adviser as a factor to consider that this was a possibility. But I’m not pushing it, the council doesn’t want it, and it couldn’t happen without the Mayor’s approval.”
During his campaign, Boris promised to “get rid of” the extension zone, which has not reduced congestion in west London and is blamed for causing severe damage to the famous Portobello Road market and other businesses. His manifesto, however, contained only a proposal to consult on the charge’s removal. When the consultation was published, a third option – removing the charge only in the middle of the day – was included, an option which Boris indicated was his preference.
Since the election, Boris has twice repeated that his intention is to scrap the western extension entirely. However, there have also been regular reports that it could survive. The mayor’s spokesman, Guto Harri, suggested at a Tory conference reception last night that an announcement may be expected soon. But he’s been unavailable since to talk details – and a continuing note of ambiguity hangs over this key election pledge.