Halton’s Labour Council is delighted that the Mersey Gateway has now opened, on time and to budget. That one of the smallest local authorities in the country was able to deliver this, the largest infrastructure project outside London, is an achievement to be proud of. The feedback from Halton residents has been overwhelmingly positive. It could not have been delivered without the support and hard work of Halton MP Derek Twigg, who also played a key role in persuading the then Chancellor, George Osborne to provide additional funding on top of the Council’s contribution to toll free travel for Halton residents.
Our Labour run Council wanted a free to use bridge but governments of all political persuasions made it clear there would be no new bridge without tolls. The Council found itself in an impossible situation. Our Silver Jubilee Bridge was well over the traffic capacity it was built for, with almost daily delays for traffic trying to cross, and associated environmental problems for the communities living around the bridge. In addition, the SJB is in need of major repairs and maintenance that will shut it to traffic for up to a year. There was also the negative effect the congestion was having on economic development. Halton could ill afford the loss of the Mersey Gateway Project.
We are very aware of the concern and anger of a small number of our residents in G & H Council Tax Bands because they do not have toll free access like 99.6% of Halton residents. This is because the government reneged on its promise to allow all Halton residents to travel toll free. Also, the government went back on its promise to find a scheme to provide help to small businesses in Halton.
Halton’s Labour Council has not given up on trying to find a solution to these important local issues but it faces a challenging situation. This is because despite the many representations that have been made by Derek Twigg MP to government ministers, working closely with the Council, the government still refuses to do anything. We want to assure Halton residents living in Council Tax Bands G & H that they have not been forgotten and work continues to go on to right the wrong done to them by the government. We will continue to work closely with Derek Twigg MP and the newly elected MP for Weaver Vale, Mike Amesbury to find a way forward on the matter of government support for Halton residents in Council Tax Bands G & H and help for small local businesses. Halton’s priority is as always Halton people.
Cllr Rob Polhill
Leader of Halton Borough Council