Despite recognising that the Severn Bridge tolls have an adverse effect on the Welsh economy, Labour’s Carwyn Jones has again refused to back the Welsh Lib Dem campaign to scrap them.
Challenged by Kirsty Williams during today’s First Minister’s Questions, the First Minister instead said control over the bridges should be devolved to the Welsh Government. Such an action would mean the Welsh budget would have to foot the bill of maintaining the bridges, a sum which will only increase as the bridges age.
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Jenny Willott, the Welsh Liberal Democrat candidate for Cardiff Central, said:
“The Welsh Government’s own report says that the Severn Bridge tolls deprive our economy of over £100million a year. It therefore baffles me why Labour, the Tories and Plaid insist on keeping tolls in place. The Liberal Democrats are the only party committed to scrapping the tolls entirely.
“The case for scrapping the tolls is growing by the day. The Federation of Small Businesses say they are ‘damaging the economy of south Wales’, and Labour’s own Economy Minister says that they have an ‘adverse impact’ on our economy. Why the other parties continue to bury their heads in the sand is beyond me.
“Devolving control of the bridges to Wales isn’t the answer. It would leave the Welsh Government with the burden of maintaining the bridges; a cost which will only increase as the bridges age.
“Keeping the bridges within the control of the UK Government, but scrapping the tolls as soon as any existing debts are paid off, is clearly the best outcome for Wales. The Welsh Liberal Democrats are the only party committed to that outcome.”
The Severn Crossings are currently managed by a private concessionaire. The concession will end when a revenue target collected from tolls is reached. Current forecasts are that the concession will end in 2018. Once the tolls are transferred into public ownership and debts are repaid, the Liberal Democrats have made a commitment to scrap the tolls completely.
This commitment has been made in General Election manifestos published by both the Liberal Democrats and the Welsh Liberal Democrats. The Severn Bridge Tolls are not mentioned in the Labour or Conservative UK manifestos.