MOTORISTS are to be charged an extra 20p per crossing of the Itchen Bridge as fees are hiked for the first time in two decades.

Southampton City Council’s move, which has been branded “another tax on motorists”, will hit those who pay the toll with cash, and is expected to raise £510,000 a year for the city council.

Currently it costs cars, and small vans, 50p to cross the bridge (60p at peak time), but the new charge will see this rise to 70p (80p) from April next year.

However, the authority says Southampton residents will not have to pay the increased toll, as long as they use a SmartCities card registered to their city address.

Speaking about the rise, city council leader Christopher Hammond said the additional cash will provide funding to maintain and upgrade the bridge – with the introduction of contactless card payments scheduled for the “near future”.

He added that the toll has not risen in the past 20 years, but repair and maintenance costs have.

The council leader is also confident this won’t put motorists off using the bridge and taking longer M27/M271 routes into the city.

The move comes as part of the council’s proposed new budget, which looks to save £15.05 million by 2021.

Civic chiefs say the council requires major changes to the way it operates to achieve the savings, which they put down to central government reducing its grants to local authorities.

But Conservative leader Dan Fitzhenry has blasted the authority for its proposals.

“We would not be doing that,” he said.

“Along with the [currently being decided] Clean Air Zone plans to charge commercial vehicles £100 a day to enter the city, this is just another tax on motorists.

“It appears that they are happy to be the anti-car, anti-resident, and anti-business council.

“What the Labour council is effectively doing is making it as difficult as possible to to drive into the city, at a time when we should be helping them.”

It comes as the council prepares to release its plans for a proposed Clean Air Zone. One of the recommendations includes plans to charge commercial vehicles.

The council has been tasked by central government to reduce its nitrogen dioxide amount to the EU-imposed level of below 40 micrograms per cubic air metre by 2022. It is currently 42 micrograms.