Halton Labour

Statement on the Mersey Gateway Crossings Board

There have been some press reports stating Halton Borough Council have been tight lipped over Mersey Gateway Crossings Board director and staff payments. In fact, our councillors were not given the opportunity to comment before the article was printed.

To put the record straight the following is a statement:

The Mersey Gateway Crossings Board is an arm’s length company set up by Halton Borough Council to deliver the Mersey Gateway and refurbish the Silver Jubilee Bridge. It is a commercial, not for profit company. It was necessary to set it up to achieve Halton’s new bridge and repair the SJB, as government totally refused to fund our new bridge and government required the setting up of the company as a condition of guaranteeing the loans required to build the Mersey Gateway and carry out the major repair works needed on the SJB.

As you would expect with any company set up to deliver such a huge project, The Mersey Gateway Board, has a number of staff, many are experts in their fields and must be paid for their work, commensurate with their experience and expertise.

A requirement of Government was that the MGCB Ltd operates as a private company at “arms length” to the Council.  To achieve this, the Board was constituted to include non-executive and executive (employee) directors.  It is accepted business practice that non-executive directors sitting on private companies receive a payment to compensate them for their time. (e.g. attending monthly Board meetings, other associated meetings, and site visits to the project, reviewing papers, media commitments etc.)

There are executive (employee) directors, including the Project Director, the Finance Director and the Construction Director. There are five non-executive directors, including two elected members of Halton Borough Council. Some of the directors’ remuneration is confidential due to commercial sensitivities.

Halton Borough Council decided to have two elected Council members, our Council Leader and our Deputy Leader on the Board to represent the interests of the Council and residents of Halton.  For their time and commitment to this important role in overseeing that this huge infrastructure project is delivered on time and on budget, they received £5,553.00 per year after tax and this is financed from the company not the council. This work is in addition to work undertaken by them as elected members of Halton Borough Council.

Our long awaited new bridge has been built within budget and on time.

With regard to Halton Borough Council’s decision to allow its Chief Executive David Parr to take on the role of Project Director of the MGCB, this saved the council and the Mersey Gateway money, as the salary that would have been due to the Project Director was then a part time salary with a sum paid to the council, off- set against and lowering the cost to the council for the salary of their CEO.

It is important to remember as we come to the end of decades of many Halton people wanting and waiting for a new bridge, that the council would have preferred non tolled bridges but government would not allow that

The situation was simple – tolled bridges or no new bridge.

Halton needed a new bridge; the SJB was built to carry a few thousand vehicles a day, while it is now carrying 80,000 vehicles a day and is badly in need of major repair works.  The people of Widnes and Runcorn have lived for decades with “something has happened on the bridge” then the resultant backing up of our towns with traffic, making us late for work, late for and missing appointments, late getting home etc.

It is also important to note that Halton fought hard for as many Halton residents as possible to be covered by the Local User Scheme and have achieved toll free crossings for 99.6% of Halton residents. Representations continue for the remaining 0.4% of Halton residents and small local businesses, after government reneged on George Osborne’s promise for toll free travel for all Halton residents and help for local small businesses.

We understand that residents who live outside of Halton are very disappointed that they will have to pay tolls, however, it was government that refused to fund our new bridge and it was former Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne who promised people living in the neighbouring areas that government would fund their crossings, government then refused to fulfil that promise.

Halton cannot fund toll free travel or additional discounts for residents who do not live in Halton, we simply do not have the resources to do so, only government can do that. Halton’s responsibility is to ensuring the best possible outcome for Widnes and Runcorn residents and that is why Halton for years have relentlessly lobbied government for toll free crossings for Halton residents.

As we have always done, Halton wishes the representatives and councils from other areas the very best of luck in their own representations to government to fund crossings for their residents.

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