A Welsh climate change minister has rubbished projections from his own government that the country’s new 20mph speed limit will cause up to £8.9 billion worth of economic damage.
Lee Waters discredited figures produced by the Labour-run administration, saying they were “rubbish” and shaped by “out of date” environmental attitudes.
Wales became the first UK nation to impose the 20mph speed limit on residential streets, with those caught speeding facing £100 fines and three points on their licence.
The law came into force on Sept 17, with motorists fearing the lowered limit will mean they spend more on fuel and longer in their cars because of increased journey times.
Mark Drakeford, the First Minister of Wales, has said the new law will save around 10 lives and prevent up to 2,000 injuries every year.
Documents produced by the Welsh Government estimate between £2.7 billion and £8.9 billion will be lost to the economy over 30 years, as the average journey time will increase by between one and two minutes.
Mr Waters, deputy minister for climate change, says the Welsh Government was forced to use projections calculated by the Treasury, which he claims omit the economic benefits of walking and cycling.
He told the BBC: “They have come up with a pounds figure for each minute that is lost for the economy.
“And because on average a minute is lost for an average journey they have added up all the minutes and they have multiplied that by 30 years, they have come up with a large figure of £4.5 billion.
“There will be an economic impact on some sectors.
“But we can’t treat all journeys the same – one minute late to the dentist or two minutes late to see my granny, that does not have an economic impact and we don’t apply this consistently.
“It is a rubbish figure but we are forced to use it.”
A record-breaking petition submitted to the Welsh Parliament (Senedd) demanding that the Government rescinds the “disastrous 20mph law” passed 350,000 signatures on Thursday.
It was created by Mark Baker, a former Labour member from Bridgend, who said the issue could affect the next Senedd elections, which will take place no later than May 7 2026.
He told Wales Online: “I think Labour have been extremely ignorant.
“Certain senior ministers [have shown] arrogance really over just dismissing this number of people. We’re almost at the 440,000 people mark of people who voted for Labour in the last Senedd election and not far off the 559,000 people who voted for devolution in the first place. These numbers aren’t to be belittled.”
Speaking in the Senedd earlier this week, Natasha Asghar, Welsh Conservatives’ transport spokesman, said: “Residents have had their say on this and the verdict is resounding.
“They do not want this costly, ill-thought out, disastrous blanket.
“The Welsh Government really need to scrap this anti-drive mentality and instead ensure Wales has an adequate road network for the future.”