Derek Twigg MP

Member of Parliament for Halton

Recent Activity

Derek has today written to David Parr, Chief Executive at Halton Borough Council to raise his concerns regarding bus services to and from Runcorn Town Centre, the "Old Town". 

Dear David,

A number of concerns are being raised with me regarding the changes in bus services stopping at Runcorn town centre following the opening of the Mersey Gateway. My constituents are telling me that the changes are isolating the “Old Town” and causing them a great deal of inconvenience. While I completely understand the need for the Runcorn/Widnes Bridge to be closed, it is not acceptable for bus services to be changed in the way that my constituents are experiencing.  There are also fears that it will discourage people from visiting the town centre for shopping etc. The X1 is a service particularly mentioned.

I would be grateful if this could be looked at again to find an urgent solution and I
 look forward to your reply.

 

Kind regards,

 

Derek Twigg MP

 

 

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Bus Services Runcorn "Old Town" Centre

Derek has today written to David Parr, Chief Executive at Halton Borough Council to raise his concerns regarding bus services to and from Runcorn Town Centre, the "Old Town". 

Both the Mersey Gateway and the Silver Jubilee Bridge are in my constituency of Halton and there is a long history that has led to current tolling situation.  I have been involved in the crossings situation for over two decades, making many representations to governments to support the fact that Halton needed a new Mersey crossing. 

Halton is made up of two towns - Runcorn and Widnes, which are divided by the River Mersey.  Halton people have for decades suffered dreadful congestion trying to travel around their own borough due to the existing Silver Jubilee Bridge traffic. As traffic crossing Halton’s existing bridge increased massively, from a few thousand vehicles a day in 1961 to 70,000 plus a day in recent times, it became apparent that a new bridge was needed. 

Unfortunately various governments refused to fund a new un-tolled crossing and additionally went further in that they would not allow the Mersey Gateway Project without the existing Silver Jubilee Bridge also being tolled.  Government’s position was it was either tolled bridges or no new bridge. It was agreed that the new bridge was an absolute necessity for the future of Halton, therefore the Labour run Halton Borough Council went ahead with the Mersey Gateway Project.  Both the Mersey Gateway and the Silver Jubilee Bridge are ring fenced to Halton Borough Council and form no part of the Liverpool City Region agreement.  The Mersey Gateway Project includes the repair and renovation of the existing Silver Jubilee Bridge, which when it re-opens will revert to its original purpose of being the local Runcorn – Widnes bridge connected into the local road networks of Widnes and Runcorn.

From the point of the new crossing being allowed to go ahead, I repeatedly made strong representations to the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne stating it would be totally unfair for my constituents to have to pay tolls to cross their own borough.  I also attended meetings with my constituents regarding the tolls, advising them that I would not give up until my constituents were not paying tolls to cross their own borough. I have never given up on that.

In 2014 George Osborne, following my many representations, finally promised that all Halton residents would travel toll free and that there would be a special help scheme for local businesses.  In 2015 the Tory government then reneged on this promise to all Halton residents by reverting to the original council funded Local User Discount criteria, simply topping up the original council commitment and stating residents in Council Tax Bands G & H would have to pay tolls and stating that State Aid laws stopped them allowing a special scheme to help small local businesses, which I continue to challenge.

While I obviously welcome the fact that following my representations, over 99% of Halton residents can travel toll free on their own bridges, I continue to raise the case for my constituents living in Council Tax Bands G & H and for local small business.  Most recently speaking to the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling MP on these very issues, however the Tory government currently tell me that they have no plans to look at this issue again.  I strongly believe that no Halton resident should be paying tolls to cross their own borough. 

I have also written to John McDonnell MP, the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer asking if a Labour government would lift the tolls off Halton’s two bridges by funding the finance of the Mersey Gateway Project or at the very least would a future Labour government guarantee to make Halton residents living in Council Tax Bands G&H eligible for the £10.00 per year local resident scheme, alongside a scheme to assist local small businesses.  You can find the letter below.

I support the case that government should have funded the Mersey Gateway, however, unless government changes its position on the funding arrangements, the bridges will remain tolled until they are paid for.  Only government could fund the lifting of tolls on the Mersey Gateway and the Silver Jubilee Bridge.

 

Derek Twigg 

 

The Rt Hon John McDonnell MP,
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
House of Commons
London
SW1A 0AA


Dear John,

I am writing to you regarding the Mersey Gateway and Silver Jubilee Bridge tolls.  The Mersey Gateway is nearing completion and is due to open very shortly and the Silver Jubilee Bridge is an existing bridge over the River Mersey that will shut for 12 months for much needed maintenance work as the Mersey Gateway opens.  

Both bridges are in my constituency of Halton and there is a long history regarding what has led to current tolling situation, I have been involved in the crossings situation for many, many years.  Halton is made up of two towns - Runcorn and Widnes, which are divided by the River Mersey.  Halton people have for decades suffered traffic jams trying to travel around their own borough when using the existing Silver Jubilee Bridge which originally opened in 1961.  As traffic increased it became apparent that a new bridge was needed.  Unfortunately various governments refused the business case for a new untolled crossing and additionally went further in that they would not allow a new tolled crossing without the existing Silver Jubilee Bridge also being tolled.  It was decided that the new bridge was an absolute necessity for the future of Halton and for the rest of the region, therefore the Labour run Halton Borough Council went ahead with the Mersey Gateway.  Both the Mersey Gateway and the Silver Jubilee Bridge are ring fenced to Halton Borough Council and form no part of the Liverpool City Region Devolution agreement.

From the point of agreeing the new crossing, I repeatedly made representations to the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne stating it would be unfair for my constituents to have to pay tolls to cross their own borough.  The Labour led Halton Council had already put funds in to try to help residents with tolls and were advised that they must use a socio economic criteria for any Local User Discount Scheme that they proposed.  They decided to use the socio economic criteria of Council Tax Bands to ensure that as many Halton residents would get discounted tolls as possible, this resulted in 99.6% of Halton residents being eligible for the Local User Discount Scheme.  In 2014 George Osborne finally promised that all Halton residents would travel toll free and that there would be a special help scheme for local businesses.  The Tory government then reneged on the promise to all Halton residents by reverting to the original council funded Local User Discount criteria and stating residents in Council Tax Bands G & H would have to pay tolls, while stating that State Aid laws stopped them allowing there to be a special scheme to help.  While I obviously welcome the fact that 99.6% of Halton residents can travel toll free on their own bridges, I have carried on raising this with government and they tell me that they have no plans to look at this issue again.

I am writing to ask firstly if the next Labour government could fund the lifting of the tolls on the Mersey Gateway Bridge and the Silver Jubilee Bridge for all, it is my understanding that the cost of that would be in the region of £1.8 billion.  Or if that is not possible, would the next Labour government allow the lifting of the tolls for 0.4% of Halton residents that are not covered by the Local User Discount Scheme and look at a scheme to help local businesses.

I look forward to your response and if you need any further background on the Mersey Gateway please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Yours sincerely,

 

Derek Twigg MP

 

 

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Mersey Gateway & Letter to the Rt Hon John McDonnell MP Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer

Both the Mersey Gateway and the Silver Jubilee Bridge are in my constituency of Halton and there is a long history that has led to current tolling situation.  I have...

Derek Twigg has today written to the Secretary of State for the Department of Work & Pensions condemning the implementation of Universal Credit in Halton and asking for the further roll-out of Universal Credit to be paused.

 

 

Rt Hon David Gauke MP
Secretary of State
Department for Work & Pensions
House of Commons
London
SW1A 0AA

 

Dear David, 

I am writing to ask you to pause the planned expansion of the Universal Credit roll-out, I have previously raised with you my serious concerns regarding the Universal Credit system due to the disgraceful effect it has had on many of my constituents.

My constituency, Halton became a full service Universal Credit area in July 2016 and it has had a terrible impact, with families sometimes not receiving payments for weeks or months on end.  The Halton CAB tell me that it has already helped 710 people with 1,160 problems with Universal Credit and I fear that this is just the tip of the iceberg.  My constituency’s largest housing association, Halton Housing Trust, have stated that while just 17% of its customers were receiving Universal Credit, they owed 47% of all its outstanding arrears. They said “We are also seeing an increased risk of claimants who are unable to sustain their tenancy due to increased rent arrears.”

I have had constituents contact me that are being left completely destitute due to the problems with Universal Credit, families on the verge of breakdown because of the pressure put on them, people going without food and fearing that they will be evicted.  Foodbank referrals have increased massively. Constituents report long waiting times when trying to phone Universal Credit for help, being unable to speak to anybody that can help them and their ‘online journals’ entries being ignored or not updated. 

I am extremely concerned at the seemingly limited information that people are given when they are transitioned to Universal Credit from Working/Child Tax Credits.  Indeed the DWP have concurred with me in correspondence that there is a clear need to educate people on the new processes. 

Constituents have had their childcare help suspended due to simple errors due to not receiving enough guidance on the huge difference between Tax Credits and Universal Credit.  These suspensions have put their childcare arrangements and therefore their jobs at risk, when in some cases the change that has forced them to be transitioned to Universal Credit is simply they have managed to increase their work hours.   Halton is already a full service Universal Credit area and I suspect that people are frightened of making changes, for example, changes to their working hours for fear of being transitioned into the shambles that is full service Universal Credit.

There are major issues with the information sharing between HMRC Real Time Reporting and Universal Credit, with payments being suspended, despite constituents having proof of their earnings in the form of pay slips. When errors are made they have to wait weeks for the error to be corrected with no time frame available of when the issue will be looked at.  To leave low paid families in dire straits like this, through no fault of their own is unacceptable.

Sick and disabled people being ‘transitioned’ to Universal Credit are facing major difficulties with the system, including poor advice and being left fearful of the assessments that they are forced to undergo.  I have constituents that have been wrongly taken off ESA, encouraged to apply for Universal Credit during the Mandatory Consideration period and then when the original ESA decision is corrected, find themselves trapped on Universal Credit on a lower rate, through absolutely no fault of their own but due to an incorrect decision in the first place.  This is completely and utterly unfair, surely in a fair system those people should be put back in the position they were in before the wrong decision took place

Universal Credit was supposed to simplify the benefits system by rolling up Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Income Support, JSA, ESA and Working Tax Credit into one benefit.  Instead it has put working people on low incomes, vulnerable sick and disabled people and job seekers into a poorly planned and insensitive system.  It has put many of my constituents into severe financial hardship.

The Universal Credit system is not working in Halton. I have grave fears regarding the planned expansion of the roll-out of Universal Credit next month to other areas.  It is already hurting vulnerable and low paid people in areas like Halton that sadly have already had the roll-out inflicted on them.  I ask that the planned expansion is paused and the severe problems with the utterly shambolic Universal Credit system are urgently addressed to see an end to the hardships being inflicted on my constituents.

I look forward to your urgent response.

 

Derek Twigg MP

 

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Derek Twigg Condemns the Implementation of Universal Credit in Halton

Derek Twigg has today written to the Secretary of State for the Department of Work & Pensions condemning the implementation of Universal Credit in Halton and asking for the further...


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