Boris Johnson accused of misleading MPs over funding for North

PM insists he has not cut transport budget, just weeks after 40 per cent sliced off funding

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Wednesday 24 February 2021 19:08 GMT
(Reuters TV)

Boris Johnson has been accused of misleading MPs, after he told the House of Commons there had been no cuts to the body responsible for transport in the North of England, just weeks after its central funding was slashed by 40 per cent.

And the PM was also accused of lying over claims that he cut council tax in London by 20 per cent as mayor, when the amount charged a Band D household in fact fell by less than 11 per cent during his time in office.

Mr Johnson was challenged at prime minister’s questions in the Commons by Hull North MP Diana Johnson over a warning last month from Transport for the North that its core Department for Transport funding is to be cut from £10m to £6m in the coming financial year.

Dame Diana asked whether the reduction formed part of Mr Johnson’s much-vaunted “levelling up” agenda for the North.

But Mr Johnson replied: “There has been no such cut. We intend to invest massively in Northern Powerhouse rail, in railways in the North and across the entire country.”

TFN’s finance director Iain Craven has previously spoken of the organisation’s disappointment at the £6m settlement for 2021/22 offered by DFT, in response to its bid for a £11.2m package.

He said in January that the money on offer “falls substantially short of what we outlined the North would need to level up infrastructure, help our economic recovery and accelerate benefits to the North”.

Dame Diana responded in a tweet: “Boris Johnson lied either deliberately or by failing to do his homework.”

And she told The Independent: “I’m really disappointed at the prime minister setting something that is not true to the House of Commons when there is clear evidence that the funding for TFN has been cut by 40 per cent by Boris Johnson’s government.

“He talks a lot about levelling up but when you look at the detail of how the North is treated, he is not levelling up at all. It’s just words.”

Labour’s shadow transport secretaryJim McMahon said: “Either the prime minister thinks he can lie with impunity or he simply wasn’t aware that he has cut the budget of Transport for the North by 40 per cent. It’s hard to know which is more damning.

“Whatever the explanation, he should return to the House of Commons and put the record straight. The reality is the rhetoric may have changed but the Tory record remains the same - and it’s one of the North losing out under Conservative governments.”

Mr Johnson’s official spokesman did not offer any explanation for the discrepancy between the PM’s claims and the sums offered to TFN, telling reporters only: “You have the prime minister’s words at PMQs.”

A DfT spokesperson said: “This government is absolutely committed to delivering the upgrades to level up the North, building on more than £29bn invested in transport across the North since 2010.

“In the next financial year, TFN have access to over £70m of funding, the majority of which will help develop proposals for Northern Powerhouse Rail. There is also a significant proportion of money remaining in their reserves, enabling them to carry out all their statutory functions effectively.”

Mr Johnson was also accused of misleading MPs with his claim, in response to questions from Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, that he had reduced council tax in London by 20 per cent as mayor.

Official records show that the portion of Band D bills in the capital for which Mr Johnson was responsible fell from £310 in 2009/10 to £276 in 2016/17, the equivalent of just under 11 per cent.

But this figure included a long-planned reduction in the sum handed over to the government as London’s share of funding the 2012 Olympic Games, for which he could not claim credit.

A spokesperson for London Labour said: “Sadly the prime minister has once again lied to MPs and the public – this time about his record on council tax as mayor. Neither he nor his party can be trusted at all.”

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