COUNCILLORS from Liverpool, Sefton, Knowsley and St Helens voted through an increase in Mersey tunnel tolls – despite a united show of defiance from Wirral politicians.
All four Wirral councillors on the Merseytravel passenger transport authority – Les Rowlands, Ron Abbey, John Salter and Steve Foulkes – voted against the proposed rise, joined by Liberal Democrat John Dodd from Sefton.
But Thursday’s vote was passed by 13 votes to their five.
It means car drivers will pay £1.60, an increase of 10p, from April.
Cllr Liam Robinson, chairman of Merseytravel, said the increase was necessary because the Mersey tunnels still had historic debts to pay off and it cost money to operate and maintain the tunnels.
But the Federation of Small Businesses said it was “economic madness”.
The tolls will increase in line with the class of vehicle, up to a maximum of £6.40 for HGVs, but the cost for those using fast tags will remain unchanged.
A motion by Heswall Conservative Cllr Rowlands not to go ahead with the increase was defeated in a vote.
He said: “Merseytravel should be showing a lead in trying to help the local economy and relieve the burden of taxation on local people.”
Seacombe Cllr Salter said: “I did not agree with the 10p rise. I felt it was not needed.”
Claughton Cllr Foulkes said: “My view is, as the Government is picking on the North West in particular, the last thing we needed for the economy was to increase tolls.”
It is the first increase in tolls since they were frozen in 2011.
Under the terms of the 2004 Mersey Tunnels Act – which ties the toll to the rate of inflation – Merseytravel could have increased the rate for cars to £1.80.
Cllr Robinson added: “We understand that motorists will not welcome any rise, but members of the authority decided on this step after extremely careful consideration.”
John McGoldrick, secretary of the Mersey Tunnels Users Association (MTUA), said he was disappointed.
He added: “We told the councillors before the meeting, that tolls are a physical, financial and psychological barrier which divides families as well as the economy.”