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Road tax bill must prevent tubleweed town centres

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) is welcoming indications that local authorities will be denied the opportunity to use local road charging schemes as a general revenue raiser.

The BRC said the Government was right to use its draft Local Transport Bill, published today (Thursday), to compel councils to plough road-tax revenue directly back into upgrading public transport.

The BRC warns that, without proper investment in public transport, road user charging could lead to tumbleweed town centres.

The BRC also said retailers would be pleased the bill seems to insist on 'interoperability', saying the last thing retailers want is for delivery staff and customers to face a myriad of incompatible schemes across the country.

The BRC supports measures to reduce congestion and cut CO2 emissions. The retailers' organisation acknowledges that road user charging is one way to achieve this aim. It is now calling on local authorities to work closely with businesses to devise workable schemes that do not deter people from visiting town centres.

BRC Director General Kevin Hawkins said: “The draft bill is some relief on two counts. The bill should prevent local authorities damaging high streets by abusing the power to introduce new road taxes. Without the law forcing local authorities to use charging revenue for transport improvements it would become an, all too tempting, cash-cow for funding general council spending.

“The bill also appears to insist local schemes must be compatible. The last thing retailers want is delivery drivers and customers having to understand and comply with a myriad of different regimes in different towns.

“Local authorities must now work closely with businesses to devise sensible, workable schemes. No one would gain from tumbleweed town centres.

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