Business shouldn't have to pay road charges, just the general public mike cherry Why do I sometimes feel that we are being bulldozed into accepting what was planned all along?
I refer to the long awaited report from Sir Rod Eddington where he espouses the virtues of road charging as inevitable.
How can road charging, in whatever form, differentiate between what is in effect an ‘essential’ journey and one which is ‘leisure’?
Key to this is to recognise what I term ‘essential’. There are many tradesmen and businesses that cannot just decide to work outside of peak hours because their particular trade or business requires them to travel to their customers, when their customers want them.
In addition tradesman cannot carry their tools and equipment on the buses or trains. There needs to be a clear distinction between ‘essential’ and ‘leisure’ and who will decide that?
Road charging is supposed to be designed to entice people away from their cars, but how can that happen without ensuring there is a viable and efficient public transport alternative?
Here of course we hit the old ‘catch 22’; we cannot invest more without more money, yet people will not change until there is the alternative.
We should also not forget the staggering amount that road users already pay in taxes (#45 billion) against the small amount that is then reinvested (#7 billion) into the road system – of which the lion’s share goes to London and the South East. When you look at it this way, then road pricing starts to appear as just another way of raising revenue for the Exchequer.
For our small businesses, there is no other choice. Passing on road charges to customers, or changing travelling patterns are not realistic options when you are trying to provide the right service.
The original intention was for any road charging to be revenue neutral, but similar schemes from recent ideas have not worked out like that in reality for small businesses and, if you think about it, they never would.
I can’t help feeling we’ve got our priorities wrong, since without a thriving, efficient and diverse economy in our region, we will never be able to afford all the good things and benefits that go along with that in the future. The only thing we are all agreed upon is that unless something is put into place soon, our regional economy will continue to suffer until we cannot move. Then the region will become an impossible place in which to do any business.
Mike Cherry is the West Midlands Policy Unit Chairman for the Federation of Small Businesses. Read previous columns here.
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