A £3M ANNUAL deal is being offered to cash-strapped Pembrokeshire County Council to cover the costs remove tolls on the Cleddau Bridge.

The additional £3m per annum from the Welsh Government has been confirmed by Economy Secretary Ken Skates today, December 6.

In October 2017 the Welsh Government announced it would be scrapping the tolls on the Cleddau Bridge, currently 75 pence each way for cars.

Now in a letter to Pembrokeshire County Council Chief Executive Ian Westley, the Economy Secretary has offered £3m a year to cover the loss of revenue, as well one-off payments to cover the removal of the toll infrastructure and to cover redundancy costs for those staff who might lose their jobs as a result of the change.

Back in 2016, members of Pembrokeshire County Council heard the bridge made a profit of £1.9m a year; substantially less than the £3m now offered.

Economy Secretary Ken Skates said: “Abolishing the tolls on the Cleddau Bridge is the right decision for Pembrokeshire and its surrounding areas. I am confident that it will serve to accelerate local economic growth, better connect our businesses and communities, and make it easier and cheaper for people to travel to access the quality employment opportunities they need.

“Indeed, a study commissioned by Pembrokeshire County Council shows that the removal of the tolls will support the areas economic development strategy, providing a boost to its local economy, to the Enterprise Zone and to the small and medium-sized enterprises in the area.

“However, we absolutely recognise that the decision to abolish the tolls will have implications, both on the council’s budget, and on the employment status of the majority of those workers who have been manning the booths.

“With this in mind we have offered the council a generous deal of £3m per annum to cover loss of revenue as well as additional funding to cover redundancy costs and toll infrastructure removal.”

Paying tribute to the staff who will be affected by the toll removal, Mr Skates added: “I know that the council is making every effort to deploy the toll staff who will be affected by this change but unfortunately I understand that some redundancies will be unavoidable. I appreciate how difficult this will be for the workers and their families, and would like to thank them for their public service and wish them every success in finding new employment.”

The two-year Budget agreement with Plaid Cymru included £2m in 2019-20 to remove the tolls on the Cleddau Bridge.

The Cleddau Bridge tolls are set to be abolished in Spring 2019.

A spokesman for Pembrokeshire County Council said: “The council agrees that it would be good for the county’s residents and the local economy if the Cleddau Bridge was toll-free – provided that the package of measures around this process does not place any financial burden on the tax-payers of Pembrokeshire.

“As an authority, we welcome this announcement by the Cabinet Secretary for Economy & Transport and a report is currently being prepared on the matter, to be discussed by all members at a meeting of Full Council on Thursday, December 13.”

Cabinet Member for Economy, Tourism, Leisure, and Culture, Cllr Paul Miller said: “Council officers have been working with their counterparts at Welsh Government on removing the Cleddau Bridge tolls for a number of months. A report setting out the detail of this offer will be put before full council on December 13.

“The tolls are, without question, an unwelcome barrier to trade in Pembrokeshire and removing that barrier represents a very positive development for the county. In addition, individuals who need to cross the bridge every day for work will, from April, save at least £6 a week on their crossings. That could easily add up to an extra £270 a year in people’s pockets.

“There remains some detail to be negotiated and agreed but I am confident that we are still on track for the Cleddau Bridge to be toll free come April 1, 2019.”