Labour MPs from across the region came together in a Parliamentary debate to demand that the Government reconsider the tolls on the two bridges across the Mersey in Halton.
Following the construction of the Mersey Gateway Bridge, tolls of £2 in each direction on both the new bridge and the existing Silver Jubilee Bridge were introduced. For regular uses, this can lead to a new cost of over £1,000 per year. Only residents living in the Borough of Halton do not have to pay the charges.
Weaver Vale MP, Mike Amesbury labelled this "a postcode lottery that people didn't ask to enter" and said that the winner of the 'lottery' is "a private company making quite a hefty profit."
Just two weeks before the 2015 General Election, the then Chancellor George Osborne promised residents in Warrington and Cheshire West & Chester that they would be exempt from the charges. But the Conservative party then u-turned and revoked this promise after its success in the election. Along with the fact that the offer was only made for marginal constituencies and not areas like Liverpool and Knowsley, this has led to accusations that it was an election stunt and not a genuine offer.
During the debate, reference was made to the new Queensferry Crossing across the Forth in Scotland, which was also opened this year and has no tolls in place. The Government recently announced that tolls across the Severn are being scrapped next year, while the 18 crossings across the Thames in Greater London are free.
Garston & Halewood MP, Maria Eagle said that some of her constituents "are considering giving up their jobs" because of the bridge tolls.
Ellesmere Port & Neston MP, Justin Madders agreed, saying that his “hard working constituents feel that they are being penalised for having a job” and asked “when did the so called Northern Powerhouse become a tax on jobs?”
Commenting after the debate, Justin Madders said:
“People in this area have been misled by the Government plain and simple. After a long campaign by many people in this region, we were promised free crossings for local residents ahead of the 2015 election, but they quietly backtracked on this a year later.
“What we have learned from this sorry story is that you can’t trust a word that this Tory Government says. They only pretend to listen to people in this region when they want our votes.
“This is a tax on jobs for people who travel across the Mersey for work, adding over £1,000 each year to their cost of living. Some are telling me that they would be better off losing their jobs.
“We will keep calling on the Government to keep their promises and scrap the tolls.”