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Commuters should get tax perks to get to better jobs – think tank

The government should incentivise economic growth through commuter tax benefits, which could potentially open up thousands more job opportunities for those living in smaller towns and more isolated cities, a new report has suggested. 

The ‘On the Move’ report, from the right-of-centre Policy Exchange think tank, suggests that making it easier for people – especially those on low incomes – to commute a further 20 minutes each way would put them within touch of two or more major employment sites, and potentially 10,000 more jobs. 

Policy Exchange’s proposals include offering tax benefits to commuters who use ‘ride-sharing’ schemes and free parking in city centres for car-sharing. It also suggested devolving the commercial bus subsidy to local government to improve routes and bring down fares. 

On top of this, there was a call for the introduction of part-time rail tickets to reduce the fares for commuters who travel to work three or four days a week, and the devolution of rail franchises to local transport bodies in City Regions. 

Its analysis showed that in a third of local authorities that make up the eight city-regions, no major employment sites were reachable by public transport within 20 minutes. Three-quarters (76%) of these local authorities have an unemployment rate above the national average. 

Someone living in Rochdale or Oldham, for example, would be in reach of thousands of more jobs if they extended their commuting time by just 20 minutes each way, reflecting their proximity to central Manchester.   

Damian Hind, the report author, said: “The government needs to make transport cheaper so people can commute further and more efficiently so that they can get to work faster. 

“Reducing the costs associated with longer commutes is one of the best ways to boost employment and wages. Greater local control over public transport, flexible rail fares and tax incentives for car-sharing are among the many ways of encouraging people to travel a bit longer in search of better jobs.” 

Policy Exchange said the government’s decision to delegate new powers and funding to local transport to city-regions as part of the city deals is a “very positive” step forward, adding that local government is better placed to make decisions over transport infrastructure.

A Department for Transport spokeswoman told PSE: “Transport doesn’t just help people get around, it helps them get on. That’s why we are investing billions in road and rail. Our plan will support jobs and bring our country closer together.

“We are already determined to hand power from the centre to cities to give local people greater control over local transport. Our Buses Bill will give local authorities the powers to franchise bus services subject to agreement from government, and we are working with Transport for the North to roll out Oyster-style smart ticketing across the region. We have pledged to introduce part-time season tickets. Govia Thameslink Railway and c2c have already committed to bring in flexible season tickets and we are working with other train operators to do the same.”

(Image: c. Gareth Fuller/PA Wire)


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