Headlines: August 8th, 2007

CONCERN THAT ROAD PRICING MAY BE SEEN AS A STEALTH TAX

 

The Local Government Association has expressed concerns about the Draft Transport Bill and the report from the House of Commons Transport Committee. There is a risk that road pricing may be seen as a stealth tax with major decisions taken in Whitehall.

The LGA argues that investment in public transport improvement must take place ahead of any scheme for it to appear credible. Failure to do so could result in road charging being viewed as a stealth tax. The Transport Committee report reveals a mismatch between the funding on the table and the costs of implementing the schemes and the question of how the investment will be funded remains unanswered.

Councils want to borrow money for these projects at the most competitive rate to provide value for money to the taxpayer. But they are being held back by unnecessary bureaucracy and red tape. The LGA wants ministers to loosen their grip and devolve transport funding to councils, which will help them deliver the transport services local people need.

Councils are in the best position to understand and represent the interests of local people, who will have the ultimate say through the ballot box should their interests be ignored. Decisions on local road pricing schemes should rest with them, not ministers in Whitehall.

The Department for Transport has allocated pump-priming funds in two separate rounds to ten different councils: Bristol City and neighbouring councils, Cambridgeshire, Durham, Greater Manchester, Shropshire, Tyne and Wear, West Midlands, Reading, Norfolk and Nottingham and neighbouring councils. The funds are intended to cover up to 50 per cent of the cost of developing proposals.