Minster “Not Minded” To Remove Tolls From Mersey Gateway Despite Further Request From Halton Borough Council
Halton Borough Council has once again asked Government to remove tolls on Mersey Gateway for NHS workers, key workers, volunteers, carers and critical supply chain to help them as we all fight against COVID 19.
Following what the Minister described as a “robust conversation” between Cllr Rob Polhill and Baroness Vere, a Minister in the Department for Transport, the Minister advised the Council that Government were “not minded” to remove tolls from Mersey Gateway “immediately” but would “keep it under review” and make “the right decision at the right time”.
Despite the specific wording used by the Minister, the consequence of the Government’s position is that Halton Borough Council cannot remove the tolls from Mersey Gateway – which the Council believe is the right thing to do – to support NHS workers, key workers, carers, volunteers and the critical supply chain who are at the forefront of fighting COVID 19 in Halton, Cheshire and the Liverpool City Region.
Responding to this decision Cllr Polhill, Leader of Halton Borough Council said: “However you dress this up, Government has decided not to remove tolls.
“We need the permission of Government to do this, so the consequence of the Government’s position is that the Council cannot remove the tolls.
“Those who will be most disappointed will be the NHS workers, key workers, volunteers, carers and critical supply network in Halton, Cheshire and the Liverpool City Region who continue to go ‘above and beyond’ to keep us safe from COVID 19 but who, as a result of the Government’s current position, will still be distracted from their primary roles and financially disadvantaged by paying tolls.
“These are the very people we are relying on most in these difficult times.
“We urge Government to reconsider their position without delay and will continue to press Government to allow the Council to remove the tolls.”
Government refuses to suspend tolls on Mersey Gateway
Earlier this week, Halton Borough Council Leader, Cllr Rob Polhill announced the steps the Council was taking to suspend tolls/charges on the Mersey Gateway to support key workers in their fight to tackle COVID-19 – he explained that to do so, would require Government approval.
It is with deep regret that Halton Borough Council must now report that Government Ministers “have considered (the Council’s) request to suspend tolling on the Mersey Gateway bridge and have decided not to approve such a move…”
Responding to this decision Cllr Rob Polhill, Leader of Halton Council said: “We are deeply disappointed the Government has refused the Council’s request to suspend
tolls/charges on Mersey Gateway.”
“We believe this compromises our efforts locally to meet the challenges presented by COVID 19.”
“We also believe it penalises the very people we are relying on to keep us all safe – our NHS staff, our key workers and our volunteers, who will now be faced with ongoing payments and the requirement to pay their tolls/charge, thereby distracting them from their primary role which is to save lives.”
“We will continue to press Government to do the right thing – which is to allow the Council to suspend tolls/charges on Mersey Gateway for NHS workers, key workers and our volunteers.”
In response to the latest Government advice on the COVID-19 outbreak, and in order to protect the wellbeing of its staff and customers, merseyflow will be closing its Walk-in Centre from 7pm on Tuesday 24 March 2020 until further notice.
Payments can be made remotely through the following channels: • www.merseyflow.co.uk • via the merseyflow quick pay app • by phoning 01928 878 878.
Online facilities such as the merseyflow website and the quick pay app will operate as normal. Customers may experience longer waiting times when phoning merseyflow due to an increase in calls and reduced staffing levels.
Merseyflow is also extending all Halton Resident and Blue Badge plans, which means customers with one of these plans can continue using it without needing to renew until further notice.
Customers whose plans were due to expire do not need to take any action and will not receive a renewal reminder, as their plan will simply continue providing them with unlimited crossings until further notice.
Neil Conway, Chief Executive of merseyflow, said: “These are exceptional circumstances which require exceptional measures. We will be closing the Walk-in Centre to protect the wellbeing of our staff and customers and we apologise for any inconvenience this may cause. We also recognise that a large number of Halton residents and Blue Badge holders come to the Walk-In-Centre to renew their plans, which is why we have extended all of these until further notice.”
Neil added: “We would like to thank our fantastic employees for their commitment and dedication during this difficult time. We look forward to seeing you all again as soon as it is safe for us to reopen the Walk-In Centre.”
To open an Merseyflow account, update account details, pay for a crossing, pay a penalty charge notice or appeal a penalty, please visit www.merseyflow.co.uk.
Merseyflow will continue to closely monitor the situation and adhere to the latest Government advice. For the most up to date information, please check merseyflow’s social media channels regularly:
https://www.facebook.com/merseyflowtolls/ • https://twitter.com/merseyflow
An innovative community support scheme developed as part of the Mersey Gateway Project is coming back to boost community organisations in Halton in 2020.
The Mersey Gateway Time Bank scheme, which provides help and practical support for community groups, charities and voluntary organisations in Halton, will re-open applications for support today.
Local groups and charities will be able to submit applications by emailing email@example.com until Friday 27 March 2020.
Time Bank is a way for Merseylink – the team responsible for the operations and maintenance or the Mersey Gateway – and Merseyflow – the tolling administrator – to demonstrate their commitment to the local area and provide practical help and support to community groups, charities and voluntary organisations.
The scheme offers a commitment of time, expertise and resources from Merseylink and Merseyflow. Applicants will benefit from ‘deposits’ of time and resources, which can then be used to provide long-lasting benefits to community life in Halton.
Since the scheme was launched in May 2014 the Time Bank has already gifted over 20,000 hours of support locally across 18 projects in Runcorn and Widnes.
Play areas, village halls, studios and community facilities are just some of the organisations that have benefited from previous rounds of Time Bank activity.
One of those to benefit last year was LOOSE Charity in Widnes, which had a garden area completely transformed with new paved areas, planters and garden furniture for service users to enjoy.
Louise Nulty, studio project manager at LOOSE charity, said: “To have the support of Time Bank to transform our back space into a welcoming, attractive haven is fantastic.
“The revived area lifts everyone who attends, especially those who have seen it over many years.
“They can’t believe the change and the fact that it is now a useable and beautiful place for our visitors.”
A minimum of 30 days per year are committed through the Time Bank scheme, and assistance can include anything from regeneration activities, career advice, technical advice, general maintenance, painting and litter picking, as well as any suggestions applicants can provide.
Helen Higginson, Head of Fundraising at The Warrington & Halton Hospitals’ Charity, which also benefited from the initiative, said: “The project is hugely beneficial for our patients and their families. By creating fabulous gardens to enjoy, our patients can feel more at home. We’re incredibly grateful for all of our project volunteers who are giving up their time to take on the challenge.”
Community groups, charities and voluntary organisations who are interested in applying for support from the Time Bank are advised to get their applications in as soon as possible.
Anyone interested in applying can email firstname.lastname@example.org to apply or to find out more information.
Karen Atherton, Network Steward at Merseylink, said: “It’s been another fantastic year for the Time Bank scheme. The team really enjoyed projects ranging from reviving gardens, patios and play areas for charities across the community, including the Warrington & Halton Hospitals’ Charity, Westfield Community Playgroup and LOOSE Charity. We’re looking forward to welcoming even more projects on board for the Time Bank Initiative 2020.”
Beatriz Fuentes, Head of HR at Merseyflow, said: “We are proud to support the work of amazing local charities through the Time Bank initiative. Getting involved in the community challenges has brought our team together and provided the opportunity to engage with other volunteers and local charities. We’re excited to see what new projects we will be giving time to in 2020.”
The organisers of the Halton Christmas Toy Appeal are celebrating their best year yet.
More than £300 and hundreds of brand-new toys have been collected at Merseyflow’s walk-in centre in Runcorn for the campaign.
It means disadvantaged children across Halton will get an extra gift from Santa this year.
The aim of the Appeal, run by Widnes-based mum of four Nicky Woodward, is to make sure less fortunate children from across Halton have something to enjoy this Christmas.
Since the Appeal first launched five years ago, over 300 local babies and children up to 18 have benefited from the campaign.
The Mersey Gateway Crossings Board staff have contributed to the best year yet for toys collected, with four large boxes of brand-new toys donated to disadvantaged children in the area.
The money will be used by the Halton Christmas Toy Appeal to buy additional age – appropriate toys which will be distributed to children in some of Halton’s most deprived areas.
Mersey Gateway Crossings Board have been pleased to support the Halton Christmas Toy Appeal. Supporting the valuable work of Nicky and her team has seen all the team contribute and boost the worthy Appeal on behalf of those in need in Halton.