Christmas Shoppers (Supplementary) [12]

Session date: 
December 17, 2003
Question By: 
Angie Bray
Organisation: 
GLA Conservatives
Asked Of: 
The Mayor

Question

Let us just get back to the actual question because I have to say this is a real anorak's question. Talk about the modern Ebenezer Scrooge. Instead of harkening to the sound of Christmas tills racking up lots of lovely revenue for the retail sector, Mr Biggs is more interested in counting car numbers and managing the Christmas traffic. Would you not accept that mostly the concern around Christmas traffic is the lack of it because what we have been hearing on the news around the Christmas shopping season is that shops are extremely depressed. They are having to face competition from the Internet. They are already having to put their sales on about a month early because they have had such a depressing start to what should be one of the most important parts of the business year for them.

Of course, they have also suggested that your Congestion Charge has not helped. I love your sudden concern about the shops in Oxford Street when you have done more than anybody to demolish some of their profits. Would you accept what the CBI and others have told us that this Christmas season and the January sales that follow are possibly going to be the most important test of your Congestion Charge and the impact it is having on businesses, and that any final verdict has to await the outcome of those two particular occasions?

Supplementary To: 

Answer

Answer for Christmas Shoppers (Supplementary) [12]

Answer for Christmas Shoppers (Supplementary) [12]

Answered By: 
The Mayor

One of the things I looked at was whether it would be possible to suspend the Congestion Charge between Christmas and New Year. It might be possible if it was planned much longer in advance, but so many people have already paid for that period it would be extremely complex to find ways of tracking them down and refunding their money and so on. Equally, whilst there are large parts of central London that are very quiet during that period, there will actually be quite severe congestion around the main sales centres. Therefore, in order to keep the buses flowing it is not going to be possible to suspend the Congestion Charge.

Clearly, what happens at the January sales will be a factor in the analysis. Bob Kiley has always argued you need two years and that would just dovetail in nicely in time for a decision on the western extension. I do think the fact that we have just been through the turndown in this economic cycle has had much more effect than any other factor. We should all be grateful that this down turn has been dramatically less damaging than the ones in the early 1980s and early 1990s. The clear and wise stewardship of the Chancellor has let us get through a down turn in the economy without the scale of casualties that John Major and Mrs Thatcher presided over.