A COUNCILLOR who voted against a rise in the tolls on the River Tamar has said he has “rarely felt so frustrated” as during last week’s meeting of the Bridge and Ferry Committee.
Members of the Joint Committee have voted in favour of an increase in cash tolls to £3, the smallest of a range of possible increases set out by council officers. The Tag discount fee is set to rise to £1.50.
Cllr Long had said that it was time for the committee to stick its neck out for what was going to be right for local people. But at Friday’s meeting, it was only he and Cllr Armand Toms who voted against an increase to £3 for cash payments on the crossings.
A public consultation carried out by Tamar Crossings ahead of the committee’s vote had just under 7,200 responses. With 57% stating they wished to see no increase in the toll, 14% supported a rise to £3 / £1.50.
Cllr Long said that members of the joint committee had received a letter from Cornwall’s 151 (financial) officers telling them not to vote for the ‘do nothing’ option and that there would be consequences for doing so. The Callington councillor says he has requested that the contents of the letter be made public.
Speaking after the meeting, he said: “It is a rare occurrence when I get close to losing my rag but today I was pushed to the limit. I am sorry we were not able to persuade enough to join the rebellion – but the fight goes on.”
Meanwhile vice chairman of the Tamar Toll Action Group (TTAG) Scott Slavin said that the fact that councillors were barred from voting freely “brought into question the validity of he public consultation in itself”.
In a statement to the press, Tamar Crossings said that there had been no clear mandate for any specific one choice of the possible price increases but that there had been “realism” from many of the respondents to the survey.
“A majority [58%] of regular users - those with a tag - recognised the need for some increase by selecting one of the four increase options rather than the “no change” option,” said Tamar Crossings. Members of the joint committee have expressed concerns at the impact of increasing tag tolls on local residents and it was agreed to look at different options for increasing the level of tag discount in the future at the next meeting.”
Councillor Martin Worth (Saltash) and Councillor Neil Hendy (Plymouth) are joint chairmen of the committee. They said: “We recognise that many local people have no choice but to use the crossings. Even with the tag discount, the cost-of-living crisis means that some will struggle to cope with any further increases.
“However, while we will be building on existing activities to transform the way the crossings are operated and funded in the future, we are facing unprecedented financial challenges now. We need to ensure that we have funding to deliver these services so that the bridge and ferries can continue to deliver the safe, reliable crossings that the community relies upon.
“We will be continuing to lobby the Government for funding and can modify or withdraw the request to increase tolls at any time if the Government does decide to provide financial support. “
TTAG vice chair Scott Slavin said: “As far as the Joint Committee’s claim of “significant financial challenges” goes, the Tamar Crossings are facing the challenge of not having a surplus reserve some time in 2026. Their forecast reserve if the do nothing option had been selected was still £0.511 million at the end of 2025.
“By comparison, many of the people who rely on the crossings to go about their daily lives are facing those same financial challenges right now, never mind in two year’s time. They need to go to work, to put food on the table, to access health care and many are already struggling to stay out of the red at the end of each month.”