Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The way things are in a Perfect World

News reaches me at the Westminster end of the M4 that all political parties in the National Assembly for Wales want to scrap the Severn Bridge tolls. Not reduce them, but scrap them completely. Now wouldn't that be nice. I can imagine it would be a very popular policy. So would scrapping Income Tax, Stamp Duty, Council Tax and planning fees etc. etc.. Seems to me that this is one of those 'fantasy world' policies that grow on the magic money tree. 

I'd thought we were already moving to a good place on Severn Bridge tolls. The Secretary of State for Wales has talked about halving the tolls, which I'd thought would a great boost to the Wales economy. Instead we now have what looks to me to be a hopelessly unrealistic proposal, which has little chance of becoming reality. And in any case, the Severn Bridge tolls are not devolved, so this motion debated in the National Assembly, to which all Assembly Members have signed up, is not within the Assembly's powers to deliver on. 

I see that one of Labour's AMs, Lee Waters has taken a different approach. He wants to retain tolls, at perhaps half what they are now, to fund other transport solutions for South East Wales. Must admit that I agree with him. Might not agree on precisely where the money would go, but tight in principle. Sensible AM is Lee Waters. And there we have the Wales Bill in a nutshell. It's the reason I have been so determined to see a proportion of income tax devolved to the Welsh Government. Any policy based only on the 'benefit' with no consideration for where the money is coming from is not real politics. It's more gesture politics, concerned with how reports will appear in the headlines. Hopefully, the Wales Bill will deliver harder edged debate, based on benefit balanced with cost.

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