Council leaders maintain the pressure over transport cash

Leeds City Council leader Judith BlakeLeeds City Council leader Judith Blake
Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake
MINISTERS will be accused of attempting to 'abdicate responsibility' for improving transport in Yorkshire next week as councils look to maintain pressure on the Government over investment in the region.

The Government will face fresh calls from two authorities to commit to electrifying the main trans-Pennine rail route and ensure the North receives a fairer share of transport spending.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling’s decision to scrap the electrification of the Midland Main Line in July and hint that a longstanding promise to electrify the trans-Pennine route could be downgraded triggered a summer of criticism for the Government and a summit of council leaders.

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Earlier this week, Chancellor Philip Hammond looked to take the sting out of the row, insisting no final decisions had been taken over trans-Pennine electrification and stressing the Government’s long term commitment to strengthening the economy.

But two Yorkshire councils will make clear they remain to be convinced.

Kirklees Council will debate a motion supported by council leader David Sheard calling on Mr Grayling to “recommit to the electrification of the Transpennine Railway”, describing the rail line as “the main artery for rail freight and passenger movements in the North”.

The motion says the project “could in part redress the imbalance of regional investment in the UK and lend some meaning to the term Northern Powerhouse”.

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Leeds City Council will debate a motion put forward by leader Judith Blake says a lack of investment is preventing the North reaching its potential and argues “significant investment is needed to increase economic growth across the North and rebalance the national economy which will benefit the wealth of the country as a whole”.

It expresses regret at “recent attempts by cabinet ministers to abdicate responsibility for addressing these issues and agrees to write to the Prime Minister to seek assurances on much-needed Government investment”.

On Wednesday, the Prime Minister was pressed over the Government’s record on transport investment in the Commons.

Mrs May told MPs they should “look at the funding we are putting into improving rail services across this country”.

“That is a sign of our recognition of the importance of those services,” she said.