FIRST minister of Wales Mark Drakeford has said that the imminent rollout of 20mph speed limits in urban areas in Wales will save the country millions of pounds and save thousands of lives.

The speed limit on most restricted roads across Wales will be reduced from 30mph to 20mph on September 17, 2023.

The move has proved controversial, with many questioning the cost of implementing the programme and asking whether any impact it has will outweigh this.

Mr Drakeford, speaking this morning on BBC Radio Wales, was defiant.

Asked why swathes of Welsh motorists were “dead set against” the change to a 20mph speed limit in urban areas, he said “change is difficult”.

“Persuading people to adopt something different will always take time,” he said.

“I’m the only person (in this studio) old enough to remember the introduction of the breathalyser and seatbelt laws – both were highly controversial at the time.”

Mr Drakeford said that the 20mph limit in urban areas will "lead to fewer deaths, fewer accidents and is a small price to pay to make sure people are safe".

“Wales will lead the way," he said.

Mr Drakeford was asked whether the project rollout could have been delayed, amid news of the Welsh government facing financial issues.

The 20mph rollout is reported to have cost the Welsh government upwards of £30m.

“This will save the NHS £92m every year," he said.

“Sometimes you have to spend money to save money.

“The emergency services will have thousands fewer casualties to deal with.

“In Spain (where the 20mph limit was introduced in 2019) – two years later they saw urban deaths fall by 20 per cent.

“There were also 34 per cent fewer deaths among cyclists.

“This will save lives.”

Responding to the first minister’s comments on BBC Radio Wales this morning, leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies was incandescent in his condemnation of the plan.

“It was quite rich to hear Mark Drakeford go on the radio this morning defending his Labour Government’s blanket 20mph default speed limit saying it was a small price to pay," he said.

"He failed to mention that it will cost the Welsh economy £4.5 billion, reducing our ability to pay for core public services such as the Welsh NHS.

“But this isn’t a surprise when the First Minister hinted at cuts to the Welsh NHS.

"He admitted that he’s met with the four biggest spending areas – which includes health – so the big question is where is the Labour Government going to cut the Welsh NHS budget?

“We need urgent clarity from the First Minister that he will protect the Welsh NHS, making it clear that health won’t suffer because he’s prioritising his vanity projects.

“I won’t hold out hope though.”