Coalition under fire for ‘absurd’ toll road idea

THE Government has played down suggestions that a series of new tolls are set for the country’s national roads.

Other proposals presented in a review into local government, including penalties for drivers who don’t use the internet to pay their car tax, could, however, be introduced as early as next year.

Many of the proposals, which it is estimated could save the taxpayer more than €500 million, have been described as “absurd” and “unfair”, with a Fianna Fáil TD among the critics.

An independent group was tasked by Environment Minister John Gormley with reviewing the cost base, expenditure and employment numbers of local authorities. Its report, published by Mr Gormley yesterday, outlined 106 recommendations to streamline local government and save €511m in the process.

Among its recommendations were significant cuts to the number of senior and middle managers, with the slashing of county or city managers from 34 to 24, directors of service by 20% and senior and middle managers by 15%.

It was, however, the road-related proposals that generated the most criticism. In this regard it recommended:

- Introducing tolling schemes on national roads, with a portion of the revenue raised going back into local and regional roads.

- Increasing the cost of the standard 10-year driving licence from €25 to €40.

- Imposing a “handling fee” for motor tax payments made manually rather than online.

- Removing the ‘off-the-road’ facility allowing car owners to self-declare vehicles as not in use.

The report suggested it would be 2012 at the earliest before the tolling proposal could be implemented, and Government sources suggested it would not be done before then as it would be a hugely unpopular measure ahead of a general election.

But the group has said other measures could be implemented next year, with the Government indicating it would likely proceed with the motor tax proposals.

The Automobile Association said the tolling proposal was “absurd” as it would be “extremely inefficient and very costly” to build and maintain a network of tolling booths on the roads.

Those comments were echoed by FF TD Michael Kennedy, who said the cost of erecting and manning toll booths would minimise the amount of revenue raised.

Age Action Ireland said the proposal to impose a fee for motor tax payments not made online would hit older drivers hardest.

“Some 80% of over-65s in Ireland are not computer-literate and so they would be one of the largest groups who would be penalised if this recommendation were to be implemented,” a spokesman said.


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