TRANSPORT FUNDING: Government should ‘stop leaving north behind’ says Leeds Council climate chair
First Bus in Leeds
The head of Leeds City Council’s Climate Emergency Committee has urged Government to change its mind and reinstate transport funding for the north of England.
Coun Neil Walshaw (Lab) told Mr Shapps that recently-announced cuts to the transport for the north budget would mean Yorkshire now receives less than a third of the Government funding per citizen that London enjoys.
In a statement, the Department for Transport insisted that “levelling up” areas in the north of England remains a priority.
It follows the news earlier this month that Whitehall was planning to cut around 40 per cent of the budget for Transport for the North – a semi-governmental organisation which leads development on infrastructure projects such as Northern Powerhouse Rail.
Coun Neil Walshaw wrote in a letter to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.”Over the past year the Prime Minister has repeatedly spoken about ‘levelling up’ the North. One area where we are held back is the huge disparity between how much the Government invests in transport here in Leeds, compared to London and the South.
“Despite the Government already underfunding the North, we are now additionally told that the Transport for the North budget will be cut by up to an additional 40 percent of our investment budget.
“The Climate Emergency is very real and we have only limited time to act as the Government has acknowledged. Cars are one of our biggest sources of carbon emissions. The cuts in Leeds’s funding will mean the smart ticketing project for the North will have to be shelved. London has this.
“It encourages people to use public transport and helps to tackle reliance on cars. It is unacceptable that we are going to have to wait even longer for it here.”
He added that the government currently spends £408 per person on transport in London, compared to £125 in Yorkshire.
“Were Leeds to be funded even a little closer to the way London is,” he added. “Then we would have a significantly better public transport, leading to a lower carbon footprint. We would be able to repair roads, improve junctions, and ‘level up’.
“I ask that you not only reverse your decision to slash funding for Transport in the North, but to look again at the funding formula that is leaving us behind.”
Responding to the letter, a Department for Transport spokesman said: “Levelling up areas across the north remains at the very top of the Government’s agenda.
“This was reflected in the recent spending review and guides all our ongoing work with TfN as we achieve our shared ambition of world-class transport infrastructure in the region.”
The DfT added that the recent spending review included “funding for key transport infrastructure projects and programmes in the North”.
Richard Beecham, Local Democracy Reporter
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