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Phil says Northern Powerhouse idea is just 'smoke and mirrors'

Phil is critical of Government's rhetoric on 'Northern Powerhouse' fails to connect with the realities of Tory campaign promises unfulfilled.

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From Rob Merrick, 'Filling in potholes counts towards creation of 'Northern Powerhouse'', The Northern Echo (3 July 2015):

 

ANGRY MPs have accused George Osborne of “deceit” after it was revealed that filling in potholes will count as part of “building a Northern Powerhouse”.

 

Cash for bus and cycle lanes – and for traffic-calming – is also included in the £13bn the Chancellor has promised to turn the region into an economic stronghold.

The MPs said the revelations – by The Northern Echo - made a mockery of Mr Osborne’s pre-election promise to make the North his priority back in office.

And they warned the sum left over for fresh rail schemes – just £330m a year, across the three Northern regions – was too puny for any further big projects.

Phil Wilson, Labour MP for Sedgefield, said: “It seems that George Osborne’s Powerhouse is steam-driven, just smoke and mirrors and not what we have been promised.

“If his ambition is for the North simply consists of filling in potholes, then it’s not much of an ambition at all.”

And Andy McDonald, the Middlesbrough MP, added: “This lays bare the deceit within the Tory pre-election promise of a modern rail network across the North. It was nothing less than a complete con.

“If the Government are not going to allocate the necessary funds, they should be upfront about it and stop pretending it is deliverable. This broken promise will haunt them.”

Back in March, Mr Osborne announced he would – if the Conservatives won the general election – invest £13bn in better transport “to build the Northern Powerhouse”.

But this paper uncovered that:

* Only £3bn is for rail schemes - of which £1.35bn is already allocated, mainly to upgrades in and around Manchester and to replace the Pacer trains.

* Only £5bn of the remaining £10bn is for major road schemes – including improvements to the A1 and A19.

* The remaining £5bn is standard allocations to local councils through the ‘Integrated Transport Block Capital Grant’ (for projects such as bus lanes, cycle lanes, and traffic-calming) and ‘local highways maintenance’ (including filling in potholes).

The outstanding £1.65bn for rail works out as £330m each year through to 2020, for all of the North East, Yorkshire and the North West.

But several hundred million will be swallowed up if TransPennine electrification - “paused” by the Government last week - eventually goes ahead.

Meanwhile, any of ten new or upgraded rail links proposed by the Transport for the North group in March would cost several billion pounds – far more than the total sum available.

The department for transport (DfT) accepted the £13bn included both local transport schemes and road maintenance, but argued they were also crucial to “transforming transport in the North”.

A spokeswoman said: “We will boost the region’s economic growth by making great improvements to the way hard working people get around.

“We will further transform rail services across the region with more services, more capacity and the scrapping of Pacers through the new Northern and TransPennine franchises.”

The lack of money for Northern rail schemes is certain to intensify criticism of the priority given to the HS2 high-speed project – earmarked to gobble up £4bn a year by 2020.

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