Two daily newspapers are celebrating “people power” victory in their battles to save motorists from paying extra money for using a local bridge.
The Plymouth Evening Herald and the Western Morning News both launched campaigns after it was proposed that the Government should start adding VAT on top of existing charges at tolls on the Tamar Bridge.
An adviser to the European Parliament suggested there was a toll-free alternative to the crossing meaning that VAT would have to be levied. Yet local residents pointed out that this ‘alternative’ was a single track bridge, 12 miles upstream.
In response, the Evening Herald launched its A Tax Too Far campaign and started a petition which was eventually signed by more than 16,500 local residents.
The Western Morning News launched a similar campaign. Readers were urged to fill in coupons printed in the paper expressing their opposition to the plans. These were then forwarded to Strasbourg before the European court made a judgement.
Despite this, the European Court ruled that the UK was breaching European law by not levying the tax on road and bridge tolls.
Plymouth motorists feared the worse until the Government announced the following day that it had no intention of introducing VAT on tolls.
Andrew Smith, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said that most UK tolls were run by local authorities, so they did not have to levy VAT. He went on to say that the Government would foot the bill for the small number of privately-run toll roads that were affected by the ruling.
Evening Herald deputy editor John Richards said: “We are pleased for all our readers who responded in such numbers to make their feelings known. It is good to know the Herald’s voice is such a powerful one. It was an issue we had to act on.”
In the wake of the petrol crisis, the decision was a rare bit of good news for motorists. In its comment column, the Herald said: “The current petrol crisis has demonstrated all too clearly what happens when governments do not listen. Thankfully, in this case the message was taken to Westminster, and it was heeded.”
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