Council bosses say Government proposals to impose tolls to pay for A14 improvements threaten Suffolk’s economic growth by introducing ‘unfair competition’.
Both St Edmundsbury Borough and Forest Heath District Councils have been promoting economic growth – creating local jobs with the housing and infrastructure to go with them – as their top priorities.
But, according to council leaders, what is becoming widely known as the ‘Toll Tax’ will make it tougher for local companies to compete with other areas in the country where there are no tolls, or there are viable alternative routes.
In a joint statement, Cllr John Griffiths, Leader of St Edmundsbury, and Cllr James Waters, Leader of Forest Heath, said: “While we support improvements on the A14, the Toll Tax seems flawed and short-sighted at a time when we’re trying to boost our economy and encourage growth. Having excellent links along the A14 is a key element to success here in Suffolk which is why we have consistently supported much-needed improvements to the road.
“However, forcing businesses to pay tolls to improve the road in only some areas, especially when there are no viable alternative routes, will simply encourage them to use other ports and road systems, to the detriment of our local economy.
“It also seems to be promoting unfair competition for our local businesses, not being a tax that other parts of the country have to face.”
Cllr Griffiths and Cllr Waters are backing the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce’s ‘No Toll Tax on Suffolk Campaign’.
Apart from the unfairness of tolls, they also object to just one section of the A14 being improved.
They added: “We have both consistently lobbied for improvements but the Highways Agency needs to look at the whole road, not just one little bit of it – that’s not only short-sighted but reveals a complete lack of joined-up thinking. We need to grow our economy nationally and locally and sub-standard road infrastructure is not the answer.”
The Highways Agency is consulting on the proposed improvements until Sunday.