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Commission rebuts congestion charge reports

European Commission dismisses newspaper reports that councils are being told to introduce congestion charging to tackle emissions

The European Commission has dismissed newspaper reports suggesting that councils are being told to introduce congestion charging as a means of tackling climate change and emissions.

The rebuttal came after a report in the UK’s Sunday Express newspaper, headlined ‘EU declares WAR on drivers: Now Brussels meddlers want congestion charge in EVERY town’.

The Congestion Charge will increase by £1.50 from June 16 2014

The Congestion Charge will increase by £1.50 from June 16 2014

The article, which was subsequently picked up by other British newspapers, claimed that EU guidelines were instructing councils to introduce a charge.

However, it later emerged that the report was based on a document titled ‘Handbook for Local and Regional Authorities: Delivering on the Europe 2020 Strategy’ was in fact published in 2012.

This was drawn up by the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) which is made up of elected members from local authorities across the EU’s 28 member states but does not have powers to propose new policy.

Guidance

In its explanation of the document, the CoR outlines that it is “not intended as a guide on how to implement the Europe 2020 Strategy, but to inform and support local and regional authorities in their implementation of the Strategyâ€?.

In its report, the Express quoted the CoR document, which states: “Specific examples of local charging schemes that both generate local revenues and serve wider public policy objectives include: congestion charging for private car use in urban centres; charging for commercial and domestic waste collection and disposal has the advantage of ensuring the sustainability of the service and sending out a clear economic signal to polluters.â€?

Following Sunday’s reports, the European Commission moved to scotch any suggestion that it is seeking to legislate for the mandatory use of congestion charging across the EU.

In a statement, the Commission said: “The document does not suggest that all local authorities should introduce charging schemes. It merely cites some examples of policies that are consistent with environmental and economic goals, such as those set out in the Europe 2020 strategy. This is the EU’s broad strategy to help create jobs and boost growth after the financial crisis, in a smart and sustainable way. It was agreed by all EU Member States, including the UK.

“It would seem that the Mayor of London agrees that congestion charging can in the right circumstances be a useful tool, as he operates perhaps the most famous congestion charging scheme in the world. But this is up to him. Not to the EU and still less to the CoR.â€?

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