The economic wellbeing of Liverpool City Region is a joint responsibility between the Combined Authority and government. I support calls by the leader of the Combined Authority Mayor Steve Rotheram for the government to act on the present tolling system which puts residents and businesses in some parts of the region at a significant economic disadvantage.
I agree with Mayor Rotheram who has told government that ‘the introduction of additional tolls has proven to be a significant imposition to many from lower socio-economic groups, who are already struggling to make ends meet.’
In the run up to the last general Election the then Chancellor George Osborne offered to widen the free crossings scheme on the new Mersey Gateway to Cheshire West and Warrington, both of which were marginal seats, and also hinted at a special scheme for small businesses in Halton. The Department For Transport subsequently ruled out extending concessions to neighbouring areas, including Liverpool.
It would be wrong to pre-empt the findings of an independent review due to take place on May 8 to adjudicate on the legal status of the existing charging structure. However, the legal uncertainty provides the perfect opportunity for the government to step in and provide a level-playing field for businesses and residents across the city region and to boost the local economy.
The government should urgently re-examine this issue with the intent of fulfilling its promise to fund a local discount scheme for regular users of the Mersey Gateway bridge living outside the Halton local authority area.