HS2 could disrupt communities in Leeds, councillors claim

The meeting was heard in Civic Hall today
The meeting was heard in Civic Hall today

Councillors in Leeds believe some communities in the city will be negatively affected by HS2 and a lack of skilled candidates for jobs.

The comments came during a discussion on inclusive growth at the council’s infrastructure and investment scrutiny board.

It followed a report from the Joseph Rountree Foundation (JRF) on how the city can make best use of economic growth to pull its citizens out of poverty.

A representative from the JRF told the meeting: “We need to stop thinking about poverty as statistics and think about the real lived experience of people who suffer from it.

“We are interested in inclusive growth and the idea of more and better jobs. If you think about how you can bring about more and better jobs, it can help you pull people out of poverty.

“A lot of people are saying ‘inclusive growth’ but they are just tagging the word ‘inclusive’ onto the front of growth, and their policies don’t really reflect this.”

But questions from councillors on the board focused on the impact of infrastructure projects on communities.

Coun Ron Grahame (Lab) said: “A job doesn’t guarantee a roof over your head.

“We come back to the HS2 situation – Rothwell has been affected by HS2.

“I have to consider the effects on people who have lost their homes, and it has affected the people of Rothwell.

“Here is where the devolution agenda comes back to localism, and we need to say ‘why do I need to go down to London in two extra minutes?’.

“It’s not for the people’s sake, it’s just for business.”

Coun Jonathan Pryor, the authority’s executive member for learning, skills and employment, said: “It’s not just about the speed of going to London, but it’s about the capacity of the routes.

“Personally I would have liked (the government) to have looked at a Liverpool to Hull line first.

“When you look at the amount of tunnelling to avoid disruption of houses in the South, compared to the amount of tunnelling to avoid disruption to houses in the North, it’s been very stark, and there has been a real difference there.

“While I do support HS2 in general, there are bits round the edge which, as usual, haven’t always been as fair on the North.”

Coun Carmel Harrison (Lib Dem) said: “My position on HS2 is that if it sees the light of day in Leeds it will be an act of God, because I really don’t think it will happen. It will just run over-budget to a massive extent.

“But the big concern is that you can’t even get people to work now, so you can create as many jobs where you like where you want them, but we are not even succeeding at effectively getting people around Leeds.

“We are not even creating all of the jobs in Leeds – and there is such a flaw on focusing on hospitality and retail because they are very volatile sectors.

“If we are looking at education and skills we should be looking at manufacturing, where you create long-term careers for people with skills and training, but we are not even doing that because we can’t even get people around.”

Coun Pryor responded: “We are doing a lot of work to get people into manufacturing jobs. Compared to other cities (our manufacturing sector) is a lot larger.”