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London not ready for congestion charging - Assembly committee

PLANS TO introduce congestion charging in London by late 2002 took a severe blow this week when a powerful London Assembly committee said the timetable was too tight.

Last week the Assembly's cross-party Congestion Charging Scrutiny Committee said imposing congestion charging by 2002 was unjustifiable, as accompanying public transport improvements would not be ready by then.

The nine strong committee only needs to mobilise a two thirds majority among the assembly's 26 members to get the plan thrown out.

No single party has a majority in the assembly, with Labour and Conservative members each holding nine seats.

'We have already raised serious doubts about this timescale in our first session last week, ' said conservative assembly member Angie Bray who sits on the committee. 'Clear and tangible improvements to public transport must be made first.

'There are huge question marks over this. Preparation looks woefully inadequate at the moment, ' she said.

'We will be able to influence the policy. The mayor will use congestion charging revenue as part of the Greater London Authority budget and the Assembly could veto that budget with a two thirds majority, ' she added.

Meanwhile, Wandsworth, Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea borough councils have begun consulting 120,000 London residents about congestion charging in an attempt to undermine a separate exercise being undertaken by London Mayor Ken Livingstone.

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