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Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Farage steals key Lib Dem policy but gets his sums wrong

One the of the more distinctive policy offerings in the Liberal Democrats Federal manifesto during this year's General Election was the complete abolition of the Severn Bridge tolls.

We calculated that this would save the average motorist commuting each day over £1560 per year. These tolls are a huge barrier to business, costing the South Wales economy around £107 million a year.

Now UKIP have adopted our policy with Nigel Farage writing in the Western Mail this morning that these tolls penalise those coming into the country on one of the most direct routes from England. You would think that he would know but the last time he tried to come into Wales, to speak at a UKIP Conference in Margam, he failed to arrive, blaming immigration on the M4 as the reason for his no-show.

Where Farage really loses it is in his supposed analysis of how this policy will be paid for. As it happens the cost will not be great. All the revenue currently goes to the private company who manage the bridges, whilst the cost of maintenance after 2018 is a few million pounds each year and could be picked up as part of the UK's annual road maintenance bill.

Farage though argues that the cost of scrapping tolls could be offset by choosing a cheaper option for an M4 relief road near Newport. This is financially illiterate as the money for building a new M4 relief road will come from the Welsh Government's capital budget whereas any revenue from tolls would go to the UK Government. Capital is a one-off expenditure and by definition does not re-occur, whereas revenue is an annual charge on the taxpayer.

He continues: "It is staggering that Labour in Wales has mooted continuing the massive tolls on the Severn Bridges after 2018, reflecting the increasing appetite among politicians in Cardiff Bay to get as much money as possible from the taxpayer to fund an ever- increasing greed for big government.”

Well, yes it is staggering but none of that income would come to Cardiff Bay. As it happens the various parties in Cardiff Bay have different proposals for the Severn crossing. This is how much it will cost motorists under each of their plans:

• Conservatives: £1296 per year
• Labour: £888 per year
• Plaid Cymru: £480 per year
• Liberal Democrats: £0 per year

Farage also sets out his stall against the M4 relief road, though it is not clear what his alternative is. That leaves only Labour, amongst those contesting next year's Assembly election wanting to build this by-pass.
Not sure he is against the M4 relief road. In the Western Mail article he is quoted
as supporting the "cheaper" option.
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