The Department for Transport, led by husky-voiced Ruth Kelly, MP for Bolton West and ex-Education Minister, ran a public consultation until March 9th last year, on the current tariff of charges. As a result, 178 responses were sent direct to the DfT, but a further 5,500 responses were sent in via local MPs; two MP websites registered a further 3,592 and 1,234 responses respectively, a campaign spearheaded by the Kent Messenger harvested 3,389 responses, and there were 937 e-signatures on the 10 Downing Street website.
In total, 14,652 responses in addition to the 178 sent directly to the Government. But in a remarkable manipulation, Ms Kelly chose to ignore the larger figure on the basis that "it is possible that some people may have registered their opinions in more than one place. Unless otherwise stated this summary refers to the 178 responses submitted directly to the Department."
Amazing - ignore 99% of responses in case any of the 1% are doubled up. That'll be a fair consultation then Ms Kelly...
But the plot thickens. Following this "consultation", Ms Kelly now suggests that 'local' residents should pay a discounted crossing charge, whilst charges should rise for everyone else. What defines local? Suggestions include Dartford, Thurrock, Gravesham and Basildon.
So two of the twelve Kent districts - Dartford and Gravesham - get cheaper crossings, whilst our other ten Districts should actually pay more. Ms Kelly ignores the fact that we've all contributed to the construction through our taxes, and we're all paying off the Supported Borrowing which Government gave us in lieu of the revenue they promised us - see here.
Why didn't Government just ignore the views of local residents and enforce whatever scheme they thought would give them even more of our hard-earned cash through yet another stealth tax?
Silly me - that's exactly what they've done, isn't it...
(photo courtesy of bbc.co.uk)