Prime Minister denies 40 per cent cut to Transport for the North's budget despite board papers claim

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has denied that a northern transport body will be subject to a 40 per cent cut in its budget, despite official documents claiming the opposite.

Mr Johnson was questioned on the £4m reduction in the Transport for the North’s (TfN) core funding in the Commons today, but he said there was “no such cut”.

TfN board papers last month revealed that after receiving a funding letter from the Department for Transport (DfT) on January 4, the organisation’s core funding would drop from £10m in 2020/21 to £6m in 20221/22 - a cut of 40 per cent.

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Millions of pounds to set up a London-style smart ticketing system had also been scrapped, but funding to work on Northern Powerhouse Rail remained.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: PAPrime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: PA
Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: PA

But when Hull North Labour MP Dame Diana Johnson raised this in the Commons today, Mr Johnson said this was not the case.

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Dame Diana said: “Is the 40 per cent cut to Transport for the North’s budget part of the Prime Minister’s plans for levelling up the country?”

But Mr Johnson replied: “There is no such cut. We intend to invest massively in Northern Powerhouse Rail, in railways in the North, and across the entire country.”

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Iain Craven, Finance Director at Transport for the North, previously said: “Transport for the North has clearly indicated it’s disappointment and concern that, at a time when the Government’s levelling up agenda is needed most, funding is being cut, putting northern investment and jobs at risk.

“It falls substantially short of what we outlined the North would need to level-up infrastructure, help our economic recovery and accelerate benefits to the North.”

Following PMQs, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "You have what the Prime Minister said and I think after he said that he went on to talk about the areas where we are providing substantial investment.

"You're aware of Northern Powerhouse Rail, the reversal of some of the Beeching cuts, which means we can reopen railways across the UK, also announced previously a lot of transport infrastructure such as green buses that will benefit communities up and down the country."

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Asked whether Mr Johnson was denying the cut he referred back to the Prime Minister's comments during PMQs and added: "Specifically he was pointing to the range of investment that we are making to transport in the North, but as I've just said we are making investments in terms of transport infrastructure across the country and the one thing I didn't mention was HS2 which is obviously a big transport infrastructure project that will go forward."

In the context of the TfN cut and claims of cutting council tax while he was London mayor, Mr Johnson's spokesman was asked whether the Prime Minister thought it was important to be accurate.

He said: "The Prime Minister is always accurate when he is talking about such issues and as I say you've got his answers from PMQs earlier today."

Jim McMahon, Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary, said: “Either the Prime Minister thinks he can lie with impunity or he simply wasn’t aware that he has cut the budget of Transport for the North by 40 per cent. It’s hard to know which is more damning.

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“Whatever the explanation, he should return to the House of Commons and put the record straight. The reality is the rhetoric may have changed but the Tory record remains the same - and it’s one of the North losing out under Conservative governments.”

A DfT spokesperson said:“This Government is absolutely committed to delivering the upgrades to level-up the North, building on more than £29 billion invested in transport across the north since 2010.

“In the next financial year, TfN have access to over £70m of funding, the majority of which will help develop proposals for Northern Powerhouse Rail. There is also a significant proportion of money remaining in their reserves, enabling them to carry out all their statutory functions effectively.”

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