A PLAN to introduce tolls on national routes has been branded absurd and a serious attack on rural Ireland.
The proposal is one of several cost-saving and revenue-raising suggestions estimated to save the taxpayer more than €500 million.
Reducing the number of senior council officials in local authorities, increasing the fee for driving licences, and axing the “off-road” exemption for motor tax have also been mooted.
But motoring group AA said introducing a toll on non-motorway roads would be inefficient and costly.
Conor Faughnan, AA director of policy, said: “This makes absolutely no sense at all.
“The only purpose here is to raise extra money from motorists. Even if we accept that motorists will pay more taxes, using tolls to collect them is extremely inefficient and very costly.”
Mr Faughnan said that if the Government chose to add just one cent per litre to the excise duty on petrol and diesel it would raise around €25m for the state.
The Labour Party said it would not support the tolling proposal.
Ciarán Lynch, local government spokesman, said: “This is a nonsense and represents another serious attack on rural Ireland. People who live in rural areas served by national primary routes already pay road tax, income tax, VAT and a myriad of charges.
“Expecting them now to fork out hundreds of euro a year just to pop down to the shop for a loaf of bread, or to take their children to school is a bridge too far.”
Simon Coveney, Fine Gael transport spokesman, said the plan should be scrapped.
“Hard tolling of roads is not an efficient way to raise money. The capital cost of putting new tolls in place and the cost of staffing them is not an efficient way to collect what is effectively a new tax.”
Chambers Ireland said the bulk of the estimated €511m that would be raised must be passed on to businesses in the form of lower rates and other reduced charges.
Hilary Haydon, Ratepayers and Local Government Council Chair, said: “Given that business has been the funder of ‘last resort’ for many local authorities, it follows that a significant amount of the cost savings achieved must be passed back to businesses in the form of reduced rates and other charges.
“The savings outlined in the report have the potential to help reduce the burden on local government funders, of which business is the largest.
“Speedy implementation of the recommendations is therefore vital.”
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