Lib Dems could introduce road pricing in the North East

Road pricing could be introduced to cities and major towns across the country under plans backed by Liberal Democrats at their annual conference

The congestion charge has been running in London for 10 years
The congestion charge has been running in London for 10 years

Road pricing could be introduced to cities and major towns across the country under plans backed by Liberal Democrats at their annual conference.

Nick Clegg’s party began the process of putting together the party’s next General Election manifesto as delegates met in Glasgow.

And they backed plans to cut carbon emissions by introducing road pricing in congested areas.

Liberal Democrat ministers in a future government would push for local authorities to introduce a “revenue-neutral system of road pricing” – with the cash raised from motorists ploughed back into the transport network.

At the same time, they would support restrictions calling for a ban on all cars except ultra-low carbon vehicles.

Tyne and Wear authorities have considered – and rejected – proposals to bring in road pricing before.

The idea was scrapped in 2008 when Newcastle City Council ruled road pricing out, despite the promise of millions of pounds in Government funding to improve public transport if they introduced fees for drivers.

As the conference continues today, Liberal Democrats are expected to demand an immediate review today of the bedroom tax, which has hit 50,000 housing benefit claimants across the North East.

Delegates from Berwick, Northumberland, will lead criticism of the controversial policy when they propose a motion demanding an evaluation of how much money is being saved – and whether homes with spare rooms really are being freed up for families to use.

Conservatives claim the policy, which cuts housing benefit for people in social housing who have spare rooms, is designed to free up housing for families who need larger properties.

But critics say it is causing hardship for some of the most vulnerable people.

Berwick activist Julie Pörksen will propose the motion demanding a review, which is likely to be approved by delegates. She said: “We need a policy based on what is really happening in people’s lives. People in Northumberland must not be penalised for a housing crisis in London.”

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg predicted he could be back in power after the next election – but insisted there had been no discussions with the Conservatives about continuing the current Coalition.

In a television interview, he said there were likely to be more hung Parliaments and coalition governments in future. “Given that it’s more likely than not that in the future we will get more coalitions, it is less likely that you will get these slam-dunk results where one or the other of the two major parties always get a majority.”

He said his party’s 2015 manifesto would distinguish between “die in the trenches” policies which the Lib Dems will insist on keeping in any coalition negotiations, and others which may be open to compromise.

But it was too early to reveal which policies the party would insist on as the price for joining a coalition, he said.

Other measures to be discussed this week, which are likely to be in the party’s 2015 General Election manifesto, include increasing the income tax threshold further, to ensure workers earning the minimum wage pay no income tax at all. This is likely to mean a threshold of around £12,500.

Mr Clegg said the party’s commitment to a mansion tax on properties over £2m sent a signal that “even though we are committed to deficit reduction” that would not be achieved entirely through spending cuts.

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