THE latest road pricing pilot plans have provoked a mixed response from small business leaders.

Both the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Yorkshire and the York And North Yorkshire Chamber Of Commerce believe revenues from road tolls should go directly to improving transport in the region.

But while the FSB wants any such schemes to be put to a public vote before they are introduced, the chamber does not.

The FSB, which represents more than 14,500 small businesses in the region, made its demand following the May 22 tabling of the draft Road Transport Bill, allowing local authorities to introduce pilot road charging schemes in clearly-defined areas.

If the Bill is backed, local authority road congestion charging schemes will act as pilots, before the introduction of a national road toll project.

But the chamber of commerce, which agrees conditionally with the principle of road charges, dismisses the idea of mini-referendums.

Len Cruddas, the chamber's chief executive, said: "We elect people to get on with the job, and not to keep coming back to ask for permission for every detail."

However, the FSB, which has campaigned for improvements to the region's roads, insists the Government must win over the public in areas where local authority pilot schemes are to be introduced.

Chris Glen, the FSB's Yorkshire and Humber policy chairman, said: "Local authorities should have local referendums to win public backing for these schemes.

"Without this, road charging will be illegitimate, just as it would be for a national scheme without the support of a public vote on the issue.

"Road taxes raise £45 billion per year for the Government, but only £7 billion is reinvested nationally in the roads, with far less than is required coming to Yorkshire."

Mr Glen said small businesses could not make deliveries or take heavy tools and equipment on public transport. Nor, given tight profit margins and competition, could they absorb congestion charges or pass them to their customers.

Mr Cruddas said: "The Chamber is not against road charging in principle, but it must be on the basis that receipts are spent on transport improvements, including public transport.

"The difference in investment in transport between London and Yorkshire is outrageous. Something should be done to redress that imbalance."