A CRONTON pensioner who has discovered he is not eligible for free crossings on the Mersey Gateway and Silver Jubilee bridges has slammed the testing system in place as ‘immoral’.

Stan Aspinall, of Prescot Road, is one of the residents who will not be able to travel across the Mersey for free because his house is outside the permitted A to F council tax bands.

The 65-year-old is in band G, with his council tax for the year totalling £2,583.

Last week Stan registered for the free crossings and paid his £10 administration fee but was left stunned after he was sent a letter telling him that people living in properties that are in council tax bands G and H are excluded from the scheme.

He said: “I think this is fundamentally wrong.

“I have worked hard and managed to buy a plot of garden 16 years ago to build a house. We are stretched paying all our bills.

“Why should pensioners who have worked hard all their lives and saved up be penalised?

“This decision has never been made public.

“It must have been decided some time ago and should have been communicated to residents.

“This is just means testing by stealth. It is immoral.

“I have never seen anything other than Halton residents can cross free through the scheme.

“The whole population of Halton have lived with this disruption.

“Why are they penalising a small percentage of the population?

“Why is it based on properties and not on people’s ability to pay?

“If they knew why did they not write to us?”

Halton Council chief executive David Parr said ‘the basis of the local user discount scheme’ was discussed as part of the project’s public inquiry in 2009.

He added: “It was determined the scheme should be based on socio-economic criteria.

“The eligibility criteria for the scheme was subsequently published in 2013.

“The Transport and Works Act Order 2011, which gives legal effect to a number of matters in respect of the Mersey Gateway, makes such a reference.

“It states ‘where any scheme of discounts or waivers is proposed in respect of tolls payable or prospectively payable under this order the undertaker shall in deciding to adopt or apply any such scheme have regard to the most appropriate way of providing the benefits of such a scheme to those socio-economic groups within the borough of Halton least able to afford the full price of tolls’.

“Following legal advice, the council deemed council tax bands, which are a tried and tested method of determining a family’s means, as the most appropriate economic hardship criteria.

“Halton Council acknowledges that there could be residents of Halton who live in a house in council tax band G or above who are on a low income.

“To alleviate any potential hardship the council has created an economic hardship scheme for residents of Halton who reside in such houses when their household income is below the benefits cap.

“This Halton Council scheme will enable qualifying Halton residents to apply to have free use of the bridges in the same way as those eligible for the local user discount scheme.”

For more information visit merseyflow.co.uk.