Call for councils to be given lorry cash for roads

The Government has been urged to provide guarantees that it will hand over money from its proposed £10-a-day charge on foreign lorry drivers to councils responsible for fixing roads.

The planned charge, unveiled yesterday, is designed to ensure foreign haulage companies, which use the UK road network for free, contribute to maintenance costs as well as British taxpayers and businesses.

It is also hoped the planned system of HGV road charging will boost competitiveness for UK hauliers, who will be charged the daily fee but allowed to claim it back.

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The country’s largest shire authority, Tory-led Kent County Council, called on the Government for a “cast-iron guarantee” that money raised through any such scheme gets placed into council coffers.

Its leader, Paul Carter, also urged ministers to remove the burden of charging UK lorry drivers who would have to recoup their costs under the proposals.

Mr Carter called instead for a “more pragmatic, less bureaucratic” system that does not place financial pressure on British freight companies.

He said: “It’s great to see the Government putting a firm plan on the table. We’ve spent 20 years asking for this sort of system.

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“It’s good news for the UK freight industry and good news for taxpayers, who are currently footing the bill for damage caused to our roads by foreign lorries.

“A significant amount of money can now be raised. But if we can’t get a cast-iron guarantee that money will be given back to the councils that pay to fix the damage caused by foreign trucks, then it achieves nothing.

“I’d also urge a more pragmatic, less bureaucratic approach for UK lorry drivers.

“If hauliers can claim the charge back, why make them pay in the first place?

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“In a recession, the haulage industry will not welcome this element. Surely a simpler system can be found that levies a charge on entry to the UK?”

Britain is currently one of the only countries in the EU that does not charge HGV drivers to use its roads, with UK drivers paying charges across Europe.

The Department for Transport (DfT) claims it will create a fairer deal for the domestic haulage industry by “helping to level the playing field with foreign hauliers, boosting their market share and increasing employment and promoting growth in the UK”.

Roads Minister Mike Penning said: “Each year there are around 1.5 million trips to the UK by foreign-registered lorries – but none of them pay to use our roads, leaving UK businesses and taxpayers to foot the bill. A lorry road user charge would ensure that all hauliers who use our roads are contributing to their cost, regardless of where they are from – helping UK hauliers to get a fairer deal and increasing employment and promoting growth in the UK.”