EDITORIAL: PR still crucial to congestion issue

With the technology in place and the residents of affected areas primed and ready, congestion charging will shortly be with Londoners.

Its imminent arrival heralds for most interested parties an opportunity to significantly alter the mindset of London residents.

In a sense Ken Livingstone, interviewed on our features page this week, is right to point out that a ring of futility attaches itself to any PR campaign designed merely to comment on something that is already on the verge of becoming a reality. As Ken colourfully put it: money spent on a PR campaign to convince you that black is white is money wasted.

And yet on another level the mayor's insistence that PR has no role to play is at best misguided and at worst disingenuous. The mayor has a nice turn of phrase but on this issue he is wrong.

As the London Chamber of Commerce underlined this week with its fresh PR drive on congestion charging, the debate about how to mitigate the worst excesses of London's traffic mire is far from over. PR has a valid contribution to make in managing the expectations of Londoners as to the likely impact of congestion charging. It also has a crucial function to perform in explaining the need for traffic-calming measures, and in so doing raising the tolerance levels of those in the capital to what will undoubtedly be a major irritation.

In short, the argument that because something is about to be introduced it is off-limits for public debate, does not stand up to scrutiny.

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