Clegg says he will not deviate from principle of A14 toll but ‘we will listen to people, of course we will’
10:57 26 October 2013
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said he was not going to “deviate from the view of tolling on the A14 and the principle of tolling” but pledged to listen to reaction.
He said: “We will listen to people, of course we will. I am just asking people, in return, to not rigidly dismiss tolling out of hand. Where we need to expand in road capacity perhaps we need to share that cost with taxpayers at large and people who actually use the road”.
Mr Clegg, on a whistle stop visit to Cambridgeshire yesterday, said the issue of the A14 down to a matter of principle.
“Clearly we need to deal with huge bottlenecks that cost the economy so much and whether we think it should be borne by all taxpayers generally or by those that use them.”
Mr Clegg said the country was still paying off “a huge, huge national deficit which we inherited and we have to work on some ways of paying it off. That is why we should not dismiss tolling out of hand. Simply to say no to a toll is not necessarily the best way of finding the money for the A14.”
The deputy prime minister insisted he was “not deaf to the controversy surrounding this issue” and said consultation was still on going.
“I wouldn’t support the idea that a toll should pay for the whole cost of the A14 upgrade- the idea is that tolling pays for some part of it,” he said.
Responding to questioning about widespread opposition to the toll – that included dockers at Felixstowe to residents worried about Cambridgeshire side roads being a ‘rat run’- he said much would depend on the price at which the toll was fixed.
“It depends on what level you set the toll and exactly whether people get used to a toll rate when it is set,” he said. “It is very difficult to predict the affect on neighbouring roads.”
Mr Clegg was interviewed after he had visited a nursery in Cambridge to look at improved childcare provision in action.
“There is no point in the government making announcements that include new entitlements for children if you don’t go and take a look for yourself,” he said.
He said there was a similar debate about schools funding and “there is a legitimate feeling that schools in Cambridgeshire are underfunded and I hope within the next 18 months to get a national funding formula agreed which will be fairer.”
He said he had a “lot of sympathy” for those who complained about the “comparative under funding” of Cambridgeshire schools.
“It is very uneven and very unfair the way in which schools are funded,” said Mr Clegg.
On the issue of care for the elderly – where the county council like other local authorities was faced with increasing costs of provision- Mr Clegg said the coalition Government had set aside £3.8bn to bring NHS and social care systems together.
It would, he said, “provide unprecedented help to local authorities over the medium term to help sort out these pressures by bringing these two systems together.”
Mr Clegg said the Lib Dem health minister Norman Lamb would shortly be introducing “pioneer” areas where this integration would take place.
The Government, he said, had “inherited a mess” over the care of the elderly because often health and social care teams didn’t speak with each other and no care package was in place for elderly people when they left hospital.