HALTON businesses are incensed after the Government reneged on a promise to provide special help with the bridge tolls.

Many who cross the river several times a day fear the extra charges could threaten their future.

Taxi drivers fear tolls could hit their livelihoods and affect trade for shops and market holders.

Former Chancellor George Osborne pledged to devise a ‘special scheme’ for Halton businesses to meet the additional expense when he visited the Mersey Gateway in 2015.

Now Transport Minister Chris Grayling has told Halton MP Derek Twigg they will not provide help due to ‘state aid implications’.

Halton Chamber of Commerce who lobbied the Government to offer financial support has vowed to challenge the ruling.

Chief executive Paula Cain said: “We want this new bridge, it is vital.

“We understand and accept that it has to be tolled.

“My concern is that state owned regulations are there to ensure businesses don’t get an unfair advantage over others.

“Our argument to Government is they must do something to provide more help to ensure that Halton businesses are not being disadvantaged.”

Mrs Cain, who represents business members across Widnes and Runcorn, fears the tolls could threaten the viability of some companies.

“This will be a tense time for a lot of businesses, large and small,” she added.

“I will be writing to Phil Hammond to ask him to re-visit this. We need to keep making the case that Halton businesses need more help and support to cover the cost of the tolls so they are not disadvantaged.”

Mr Twigg said: “It beggars believe that George Osborne did not know what the situation was in respect of state aid rules when he said there would be a ‘special scheme’ for small businesses in Halton.

“It’s a scandalous decision by this Tory Government to backtrack on its promises.

“I have raised the issue in Parliament asking for the Transport Minister to come to the House to answer for these terrible decisions.”

Taxi drivers claim the £2 toll levied on passengers could double some fares.

Tommy McIntyre, Unite’s national union convenor for taxis, said: “We are going to lose trade. A £5 fare from Runcorn to Widnes Market will go up to £9.

“We are meeting with market traders and shopkeepers and starting petitions.

“The administration costs of refunding the taxi tolls will be astronomical.

“We don’t think they should charge them in the first place.”

Yvette O’Rourke, 49, from Hough Green, who runs a dog walking business, Poshpaws Pet Services, fears jobs are at risk.

“It’s going to kill small businesses. The £90 a month toll fee on top of all our other costs is a huge chunk.”

David Parr, chief executive of the Mersey Gateway Crossings Board and Halton Council, said: “We are developing a scheme funded by the council to reimburse Halton residents the toll cost incurred as part of a taxi fare.

“The scheme is still in its development and we welcome comments.”