East Anglia: Suffolk Chamber keeps up pressure on Government over A14 tolls plan

Suffolk Chamber chief executive John Dugmore, left, and chamber transport group chairman Stephen Bri

Suffolk Chamber chief executive John Dugmore, left, and chamber transport group chairman Stephen Britt by the A14. - Credit: Archant

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce is keeping up the pressure on Chancellor George Osborne in its campaign against Government plans to use tolls to help fund improvements to the A14.

The proposal to levy tolls on a new Huntingdon by-pass in Cambridgeshire has caused widespread alarm among businesses in Suffolk and beyond, with fears that the charges will place a disproportionate burden on East Anglia, so damaging the region’s prospects for growth and jobs.

A Suffolk Chamber-led “No Toll Tax on Suffolk” campaign against the proposal has been widely supported within the business community, and also by Suffolk’s MPs.

When questioned on the subject by Suffolk Chamber chief executive John Dugmore during a visit to East Anglia earlier this month, Mr Osborne said the Government was reconsiderinig the proposal.

And on Wednesday this week, in response to Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffly during Prime Minister’s Questions, David Cameron told the Commons that the views of Suffolk would be taken into account when a final decision was made.

Now, the chamber has followed up on a letter it sent to Mr Osborne in October by writing to him again, underlining the case against tolls and the level of support its campaign has received.

“It is clear that this support is having an important impact at Westminster,” said Mr Dugmore. “We welcome the Prime Minister’s answer and can be encouraged that he is listening but it is important that we continue to campaign to stop what would be a tax on Suffolk businesses.”

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Stephen Britt, chairman of the chamber’s transport group, added: “It has been really important that our local MPs have spoken clearly and coherently in Parliament on the No Toll Tax on Suffolk campaign.

“A toll road on the A14 would be a tax on Suffolk businesses and the proposals for this should be halted immediately.”

The letter to the Chancellor highlights the failure to carry out a full cost benefit analysis of the likely economic impact of tolls and the “discriminatory” nature of the proposal given that there is no wider Government plan for road charging in general.

The approach comes just two weeks before the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement on December 5 which is seen as a potential date for an announcement on A14 tolls to be made.