Tories savaged for spending HS2 millions promised to north on London potholes

‘Can someone send them a map?’ Ministers mocked for post on money for north going to London

Adam Forrest
Political Correspondent
Thursday 21 December 2023 08:26 GMT
Rishi Sunak confirms HS2's Manchester leg will be scrapped

Rishi Sunak’s government sparked anger and ridicule for boasting that its “Network North” transport pledge will see £235m spent on London potholes.

The much-mocked social media post bragged that road repairs in London boroughs such as Bromley and Barnet will be funded by the cash allocated for HS2 before Mr Sunak’s scrapped its northern leg.

The Independent first revealed the radical move by Mr Sunak in the autumn to ditch the Birmingham to Manchester high-speed rail link.

Labour politicians such as deputy leader Angela Rayner, Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham and shadow transport minister Louise Haigh all attacked the London-focused post on social media.

Ms Rayner, who represents Ashton-under-Lyne, wrote: “Hang on. HS2 money, pledged to ‘level up’ the North. Cancelled. Re-directed to London. Are they for real?”

Mr Burnham wrote: “Network North seems to include everywhere – except the North.” Ms Haigh said it was “ludicrous”. She added: “Now it turns out ‘Network North’ actually means repairing roads in London. You couldn’t make it up.”

Mayor of the Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram said the announcement on social media amounted to “gerrymandering that would even make the Republican party blush”.

Mr Rotherham said: “It’s more smoke and mirrors from the government, a PR stunt from a photo-op prime minister who is more interested in shiny graphics for social media than tackling the issues facing real people.”

The Liverpool mayor added: “The question now is, if the government believes that London is now part of the north, will our area start to see the same level of public transport investment as when London was in the south?”

Among the many mocking the ad posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, TV presenter and campaigner Carol Vorderman said “can someone send them a map”.

Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron said it was “great to see the rural northern village of London finally getting the levelling up funding it deserves”.

The PM was met with howls of outrage from northern leaders, business chiefs and senior Tories, after he used his Tory conference speech to confirm The Independent’s story that the northern phase of HS2 would be axed.

Former Tory PM David Cameron – now the foreign secretary – attacked Mr Sunak’s decision – saying he had “thrown away fifteen years of cross-party consensus” and made future infrastructure projects much harder.

Jeremy Hunt and Rishi Sunak were attacked for scrapping HS2’s northern leg
Jeremy Hunt and Rishi Sunak were attacked for scrapping HS2’s northern leg (PA)

Responding to the reaction to the social media post, transport secretary Mark Harper wrote that it was “great that people are talking about our Network North plan”.

The Tory cabinet minister claimed that “every penny of the £19.8 billion committed to the Northern leg of HS2 will be reinvested in the North”.

Mr Harper also defended the pothole spending – saying the redirected HS2 funding will “ensure road users across London have smoother, faster and safer journeys”. He said the government was “on the side of drivers”.

The Department of Transport said the funding is part of an £8.3bn investment to resurface more than 5,000 miles of roads across England.

Between now and March, £7.5m is to be made available, followed by a further £7.5m in 2024-2025, with the remainder extending until 2034. Over the next year, Hillingdon will receive £354,000, £455,000 for Bromley and £368,000 for Barnet.

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