Charging gets cool reception

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A PLAN to allow councils to charge utilities more to dig up roads a peak times has met a cool reception in East Anglia.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond has put forward an idea his department called ‘innovative’ which would allow councils to charge more to dig up busy roads in peak periods while firms would avoid charges at ‘quieter times’ or at night.

His department has issued consultation and guidance documents.

But Suffolk and Norfolk County Councils’ transport portfolio holders did not feel it was the right solution to roadworks congestion problems, which Mr Hammond said costs the country £4 billion a year.

For Suffolk, Guy McGregor said: “This is worth looking into, but I think there are other means of securing a better approach.

“What we want is for the utilities to operate as efficiently as possible.

“What would people think when they came home after a hard day’s work and found operators using their pneumatic drills?”

In Norfolk Graham Plant was also sceptical about the idea and said that it would be difficult to price it in a way that would offset extra wage costs of night and weekend working. He also feared utilities would pass the cost to customers

He added: “With utilities, if the water main bursts or the gas main leaks you don’t have a choice on when you do it: it just has to be fixed.”

Both councillors said most complaints were of poor reinstatement of roads and pavements.