The roads remain quiet, but this has not stopped a Welsh Government commission from looking at the idea of “congestion charging” on the M4. Just a few years after a successful campaign to scrap tolls on the two Severn bridges, the Welsh Government is thinking of reimposing them by the back door on the stretch of the M4 which you drive down as you come into Wales. Companies across south Wales are desperately fighting for survival and the last thing they need is extra travel costs.
Meanwhile in the Wales Office, Secretary of State Simon Hart and myself are trying to encourage more businesses to invest here in Wales. Slapping tolls on drivers for using the motorway around Newport would be utterly disastrous for attempts to get inward investment. At the moment it is something being considered by officials on the commission. I very much hope the elected Members of the Senedd (as they are now called) will kick this idea firmly into touch.
The roads in Monmouthshire’s towns are also quiet, although our local shops are doing everything possible to reopen. The Welsh Government has passed legislation requiring everyone to socially distance by two metres, which has forced Monmouthshire County Council to look at rearranging road layouts in town and village centres. The council is fully aware this has caused a great deal of inconvenience and has made it clear these measures are only temporary.
As high street shops struggle to reopen, the big online retailers continue to do well from the Covid-19 crisis. Amazon in particular has boosted profits further by selling vile t-shirts proclaiming “Blue Lives Murder” with an image of a police officer apparently killing someone. This offensive item was drawn to my attention by a retired police officer. I wrote to Amazon and received back a vaguely worded letter effectively saying they weren’t interested. The British police force is one of the only ones in the world whose officers are generally unarmed. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, officers have continued to serve out and about with very low rates of sickness. To have their name besmirched in this fashion is disgraceful.
*Published in the Monmouthshire Beacon on 22 July 2020 and the Abergavenny Chronicle on 23 July 2020*