Deputy PM puts tax on potholes

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The Independent Online
JOHN Prescott is planning a new assault on the privatised utilities by charging them to dig up the roads, writes Rachel Sylvester. The Deputy Prime Minister is finalising details of a new "pothole tax" which would be imposed according to the size of roadworks and how long they remained uncovered.

The proposal is further evidence of Mr Prescott's determination not to abandon traditional Labour values.

It will infuriate the Government's new friends in the business community who will see it as a "back-door" tax. The main targets are gas, electricity and cable television companies.

However, the Deputy Prime Minister believes that a "pothole tax" would be popular with voters who have become increasingly frustrated by incessant roadworks. There were 12,000 holes dug in Westminster alone last year.

The plan is to charge companies per foot per day. Inspectors will carry out on-the-spot checks and members of the public will be encouraged to complain.

Lord Whitty told peers last week that the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions would issue a consultation document shortly. The matter was raised in the House of Lords by Lord Archer of Weston-super- Mare, the Tory mayoral candidate who urged the Government to introduce a taxation system for London. Lord Whitty replied that national provision was needed.