A detailed look at the Government’s flagship infrastructure pipeline, which George Osborne uses to win spending praise before his Autumn Statement, shows the true cost of the coalition’s early wasted years.
Of the £3.5bn worth of council and Government cash earmarked for new Yorkshire road and rail upgrades, just £472m will be spent in the current financial year.
While many of the projects will see work carried out over a number of years, and another three have already been finished, many much publicised schemes are still not at the construction stage.
The Department for Transport admits there was an impact of the first 2010 round of spending cuts, but says it now has a steady stream of projects in a system designed to end the “stop start” nature of transport spending.
And department figures show, officials said, a drop in roads cash which started more than a decade ago, a figure which has started to rise again in recent years.
Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary Michael Dugher though insisted there was little evidence of cash in the UK transport system.
The Barnsley East MP said: “They have been good at repeatedly re-announcing infrastructure investment for Yorkshire, but then have U-turned on projects and failed to meet deadlines.
“People won’t be fooled and the Government will be judged not on what they promise to deliver in the next Parliament, but on what they have actually delivered in this one.” Just three projects are listed as being at the in-construction state in Treasury documents, with the Government having to include six council schemes in its plan to show “active programmes”.
With another £30bn of deficit savings likely in the next parliament, the fear is that ministers may have to once again rethink projects.
Mr Cameron defended the Government’s investment in transport during his visit to Halifax yesterday as higher rail fares came into force.
Mr Cameron said: “We’ve seen the biggest investment in roads since the 1970s but in our railways since Victorian times and its important we continue that investment because it’s a key part of our long-term economic plan, about staying on the road to a stronger economy which you can only have if you the infrastructure a modern economy needs.”
The revelation comes a day after David Cameron put Yorkshire at the centre of his effort to stay in Downing Street by launching the Conservatives’ new year campaign in Halifax.
In a highly symbolic move, the Prime Minister chose one of the seats that cost him a Commons majority in 2010 to unveil a new poster calling on voters to “Stay on the Road” to economic recovery by voting Conservative in May.
Labour held on to Halifax by a narrow margin at the last election and it is one of a string of marginal seats across the region the Tories will need to capture or retain to have any hope of governing alone.
Speaking to an audience of Conservative activists at the Crossley Gallery in the Dean Clough Mill, Mr Cameron said: “It is an absolutely vital election for our country, I think the most important election in a generation.”