Small London businesses are suffering severe cutbacks in their sales revenues because the congestion charge is deterring customers from entering the capital's centre by car, it has been claimed.
The Forum of Private Business (FPB) conducted a survey which showed that over two-thirds of its respondents in London had seen their businesses suffer following the introduction of the charge.
In response it is calling for London mayor Ken Livingstone to reconsider his unqualified support for the levy, aimed at reducing levels of traffic and pollution in the centre of London.
But the FPB's chief executive, Nick Goulding, believes the mayor of London's office is motivated more by the money brought in from the charge than by its effectiveness.
"Mr Livingstone has made his intentions clear; should he be re-elected he would increase the congestion charge to £10, meaning that the burden on business will have doubled since its introduction," Mr Goulding said.
"Although the congestion charge seems to have had little impact on the number of vehicles on the road, it has become an excellent way of raising revenue, whether that money is being spent wisely on improving public transport is another matter."
A monitoring report published by Mr Livingstone's office yesterday pointed out that congestion levels were reduced by 22 per cent while emissions were down by 13-15 per cent in 2005.
"Traffic levels and associated carbon emissions have been cut, bus services have improved, the roads are safer, and London's air quality has improved thanks to reduced vehicle emissions," Mr Livingstone said yesterday.
"The congestion charge provides vital funds which are invested back into London's transport system, and into encouraging walking, cycling and greater use of public transport."
The congestion charge was originally introduced in February 2003 at £5 per vehicle, but was subsequently increased to £8 in 2005. Plans are currently underway for it to be increased to £10 by 2007.