A leading sign maker has questioned the “massively inflated” taxpayers’ bill for two signs on the newly-named Prince of Wales Bridge.
The signs at both the English and Welsh entrances of the second Severn crossing cost £216k, said Highways England this week, adding it had been commissioned by the Government.
But Vaughan Howell, managing director of Gloucester-based Severn Signs Ltd, said his 27-year-old firm could have done the same job for almost a tenth of the price – £23,812, plus VAT.
“I don’t know how anyone could justify paying so much money for the two signs,” he told the Western Daily Press.
“If they came to me they could have then used the surplus funds to fix some of the potholes which are on our roads – when the roads in Britain are in the state of disrepair they are, how are they spending so much on two signs?
“I mean, who signed this [signage cost] off? It seems massively inflated.”
Highways England said the money went to the design, creation, installation and the associated traffic management. A breakdown of the costs could not be provided.
But Mr Howell said: “There is no design here – there are specific colours and font they have to use. And the Welsh dragon, we have seen that before haven’t we?
“I could have drawn this up on my computer in five minutes.”
Mr Howell’s quote is for two reflective aluminium signs, sized 6,300mm x 2,900mm, with fixing to suit the framework. It also includes fitting based on a four-man team working at night to minimise disruption.
Transport for the equipment is also included.
Highways England revealed the cost following a Freedom of Information Act request.
A spokesman said: “Highways England was commissioned to manage the design, creation, installation and the associated traffic management at a total cost of £216,513.39.”
Last year’s renaming of the bridge was intended to mark the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth giving Charles his title as the Prince of Wales.
But it drew criticism, especially from the Welsh public.
This week, Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood hit out at the cost of the signs.
She said: “To spend almost a quarter of a million pounds on signage after a bridge renaming that nobody asked for or was told about beforehand is absurd, wasteful and ill-judged; especially when we are losing so much because of austerity cuts.
“This vanity project proposed by sycophants in the Welsh Office, backed up by ‘cap-doffers’ in the Welsh Government, will no doubt earn them more establishment brownie points but what real, practical purpose does it serve?”
Shock at the cost was also voiced on the English side of the bridge.
Long-standing South Gloucestershire councillor Matthew Riddle, who represents the Severn Vale which includes the start of the first Severn bridge, said: “I am very surprised at the high cost of the signs.
“That money would have been better spent on resurfacing work on the first Severn Bridge.”
He said he had “no problem” with the bridge being named after the Prince of Wales, but said both bridges should get a name to avoid the first one being branded “the old Severn bridge”.
He added: “I think calling it the old Severn bridge is unflattering – I have for a long time thought it ought to be called St George’s Bridge with both ends of it being in England, and the new bridge called St David’s with one side of it in Wales.”
A UK Government spokesman the renaming of the bridge was part of the move to remove the tolls on both crossings.
He added: “Highways England has responsibility for the operation, ongoing maintenance and costs of the crossings between England and Wales.”