Northern transport body is 'a hollowed out shell' after Government funding is slashed
Councillor Sean Chaytor made the claims at a meeting of Transport for the North’s scrutiny committee, during a discussion about swingeing funding cuts and impending redundancies.
It then reduced the amount of funding given to Transport for the North to support work on the project by almost £75m.
The transport body, which now has an advisory “co-sponsorship” role, applied for £104.5m but will receive just £1.5m to provide “analytical support" over the next financial year.
It also applied for £10m of core funding – the amount it received in 2020/21 – but will only be given £6.5m.
Councillor Chaytor, from Hull City Council, said the budget “is vastly reduced” and Transport for the North has become “a hollowed-out shell”.
“I really have massive sympathy for the staff here. They came in with the intention of delivering first-rate transport for the North - that can’t happen due to the Government’s decisions,” the Labour councillor said.
“At the moment, we can deliver next to nothing because the budget is next to nothing and the capability to deliver it is next to nothing, because you’re having to think about getting rid of key people.”
He added: “Welcome to the RMS Titanic, where we are merely shuffling the deck chairs before it goes under. There’s no money to deliver anything, let’s be totally up front.
“Transport for the North is a joke.”
Councillor Paul Haslam, chair of the scrutiny committee, then told the meeting he had “concerns about how effective Transport for the North can be”.
Financial controller Paul Kelly said he was disappointed with the “modest” amount of core funding that has been provided.
He also said the organisation, which is drawing up an interim three-month budget, will have to reduce costs by almost 40 per cent and make redundancies - but did not reveal how many.
“The real challenge for us is we’ve got to take a step back - possibly become a leaner organisation - but then reshape and go again. That’s the general feeling within the company,” he added.
Mr Kelly also told the meeting Transport for the North used £2.5m of reserves to ease financial pressures, after its core funding was cut by 40 per cent in January 2021, but added: “You can only use reserves once”.
When the Government published its Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) in November, it promised £17.2bn for a 40-mile high-speed line between Warrington, Manchester and Marsden in Yorkshire.
It also opted to upgrade and electrify the existing Transpennine Main Line as part of a £5.4bn project, but refused to build new lines between Leeds and Liverpool, which Transport for the North had been calling for.
The Government, which was slated in the North after publication of the IRP, has said building the Northern Powerhouse Rail line that was suggested by Transport for the North would cost an extra £18bn, open in 2043 and shave just four minutes off the journey between Manchester and Leeds.
The organisation is still urging the Government to build its preferred option for the high-speed rail line and revert to the original plans for HS2.