THE Cornwall councillor for Callington and St Dominic has voiced his frustration over South East Cornwall MP Sheryll Murray’s remarks on Tuesday (May 7) to the House of Commons on the funding of the Tamar Bridge.

Andrew Long, a long-standing member of the joint committee, which oversees the Tamar Crossings, welcomed the Conservative MP’s pressure on the Government. 

He was critical, however, of the ‘selective’ information the Tory MP gave to Under Secretary for Transport Guy Opperman during her adjournment debate on the crossing’s funding. 

In Mrs Murray’s remarks to the House on May 7, she said: “The financial situation has now become quite serious. The two local authorities responsible for the crossings should, according to the acts, fund any deficit, but they say they have no budget for that. Decisions have been taken over the years in a piecemeal way to increase borrowing, rising from around £10 million for the initial loan to around £41 million and increasing. If this was a business, it would be bankrupt.”

Cllr Long (Mebyon Kernow) later responded: “I joined the committee in 2021 and for two years, prior to the Plymouth City Council elections in 2023, the committee was dominated by Conservatives who ran both councils. During this time, myself and others made it clear that the situation could not continue.  We have urged that the councils look at alternative income opportunities such as a café and restaurant; we have cautioned against the new toll booths as the future should be ANPR as is operated on the Dartford Crossing, and most importantly have said that it is grossly unfair that the Department of Transport’s A38 goes across the bridge but they pay not a penny towards its upkeep.”

The debate, which didn’t allow for any interventions, took place following a petition with 6,300 signatures being presented to the House by the MP asking for a freeze in toll prices for 2024.

In her statement, the MP also queried the use of the term “user pays” in regards to the crossings funding claiming the Acts of Parliament clearly state that they should be “self-funding”.  She suggested: “That would indicate that the only way to fund the maintenance costs and new infrastructure is from toll income, which is clearly not the case.” 

Cllr Long said tolls amounted to a tax on residents. “To penalise the residents for having to use the bridge to access vital services such as health, education and social services is fundamentally wrong. But that is what is happening.

He added: “Budgets are tight on both councils because of the 15-year attack on local government by the Conservative Government. In Cornwall alone they have presided over £1.9 billion being removed from funding. I hope that the inquiry does happen as it would be good to shine a light on the role this Government has paid in attacking local people by failing to deal with the issue of the tolls for decades.”

National Highways - the Government’s highways agency - currently pays £553,000 per annum (in the current financial year) to the Tamar Crossings for the operation of the Saltash tunnel controls, running alongside the bridge.