LETTER: We need to secure our share of the cash
George Osborne, the former Chancellor, called recently for more and better rail transport links in the northern areas of England. It’s part of his ‘northern powerhouse’ that he used to talk about when in power and still does through his newspaper in London. Local authority figures in the north say that they are glad George Osborne has backed such proposals. New routes from Leeds to Manchester and between other northern towns being bandied about. Television news reports about people spending six hours on the train on cross country journeys starting at Liverpool for example and having to commute right across towards Durham or Newcastle. They’re doing this every day. Business people living on one side of the north and having to commute to their business over on the other side of the country etc, etc.
The Government, however, has come back to say that it has already given £60million for the north to develop plans and elsewhere it has said that some £13billion has already been allocated for infrastructure and other improvements.
That it is, in fact, for local politicians to work up their plans, and not for solutions to be imposed by central Government in London.
To me what is interesting here is that during the past two years or longer we have had the larger local authorities banging on about the need to have mayors and to have devolved financing for Government so they can make there own decisions, and not rely on the clunky unwieldy situation that they see with departments in Whitehall.
Yet they still seem to want London to come up with direct decision-making when it comes to transport.
Are they only dreaming when they talk of taking direct control themselves over large swathes of the country? In Nottinghamshire the county council has been trying for some three years to get central Government interested in funding a north western extension of the Robin Hood Line towards Ollerton using existing mothballed mineral (freight) lines that date back to the coal mining era. But it seems to be making little progress despite the £100k that has been spent on feasibility studies.
Some local politicians talk about an East Midlands hub and getting a bigger voice for the East Midlands. Seems to me that they need to pull their big digits out and start making some noise, otherwise the north will take all of the money available and leave none for the East Midlands. There is supposed to be a conference of local authorities in Birmingham on November 14 to discuss all this for the Midlands area. Let’s hope our Nottinghamshire local authority people are there to put the case for us!