‘It’s Disgraceful’: Lincolnshire councillors slam redirection of HS2 funds to London

Lincolnshire councillors are outraged by the government’s decision to redirect £235 million from the scrapped northern leg of HS2 to repair roads in London.
Annoyance at funding going to London roads instead of Lincolnshire.Annoyance at funding going to London roads instead of Lincolnshire.
Annoyance at funding going to London roads instead of Lincolnshire.

In October, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak unveiled a £36 billion plan to revamp British transport, allocating £8.3 billion for road improvements, in the wake of the HS2 line cancellation between Birmingham and Manchester.

Yet, the decision to redirect a significant portion of these funds to road repairs in London has ignited criticism, as it appears to contradict earlier commitments to invest in transport projects in the North and Midlands.

Despite Lincolnshire’s area being more than four times that of Greater London, the Department of Transport has only pledged an additional £4,924,000 for Lincolnshire’s road network this fiscal year, with a similar amount expected in 2024/25.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “Most people travel by road, and potholes can cause misery for motorists, from expensive vehicle repairs to bumpy, slow, and dangerous journeys.

“This biggest ever funding uplift for local road improvements is a victory for all road users, who will enjoy smoother, faster, and safer trips — as we use redirected HS2 funding to make the right long-term decisions for a brighter future.”

But South Holland District Councillor Robert Gibson (South Holland Independent) labelled the allocation to London as “disgraceful,” especially in light of Lincolnshire County Council’s controversial withdrawal of a £27 million fund earmarked for the Spalding Western Relief Road’s southern section in May, due to funding constraints.

He added: “They’ve pulled the plug on HS2 and kept all the money in London, I don’t know how else to word it. It clearly shows how [the government] feel about the rest of the country.”

Compounding these concerns, the representative for Spalding St Paul’s ward highlighted the prolonged delay of the relief road project, now not expected to resume until 2030, and voiced apprehensions about its completion, criticising it for creating “one of the biggest cul-de-sacs” in the area.

South Kesteven District and County Councillor Ashley Baxter (Independent) described the decision to reallocate funds to London as “bizarre and insulting.”

He said Lincolnshire struggles to maintain its services and questioned the logic behind reallocating HS2 funds to the capital, stating: “I don’t know why any money from HS2 would be reallocated to London. The whole point of it was to improve the situation outside of the capital.”

Fellow South Kesteven District Councillor Phil Dilks (Independent) echoed his thoughts, adding: “That money was clearly for the north.”

He further expressed distrust in the government, referencing the Greater Lincolnshire devolution deal. “We’re changing the way we are being governed and adding another layer of government without even having a vote on it,” continued the representative for Deeping St James ward.

“You can’t trust a word this government says,” he concluded.

When asked about these developments, Lincolnshire’s Executive Councillor for Transport, Richard Davies (Conservative), acknowledged and welcomed the additional funding, but pointed out that it still falls short of addressing the annual £12 million cut from the county’s road budget.

He said: “Any extra money is always welcome in our ongoing fight to keep the county’s 5,500-mile long road network operational, but the amount announced is just not enough.

“Since the start of 2022 we have been operating with a 25% cut in our road maintenance funding and the local results of that have been keenly felt.

“Through a series of unprecedented measures, LCC has put in a massive effort to provide an extra £19 million to the road maintenance budget for our county in order to make up some of the shortfall, but this just can’t continue. We don’t have the reserves to do this again.

“Government says that the allocations are based on the size of the road network, but compare London’s 8,450-miles to our 5,500-miles of, largely, rural roads which need much more maintenance, and you get some idea of the scale of issue that we’re talking about.

“It feels as though Lincolnshire in particular has again been passed over for a larger share of the much-missed funding that is so vital for us.

“What we have been allocated is very welcomed, but there is more that could be done. We want to do more, we have been working extremely hard to make every penny really count and we were hoping for more from the HS2 money.”