THE Labour leaders of England’s biggest regional cities have written to their party leaders in Westminster expressing “urgent” concern at their wavering stance on HS2.
In a move which piles further pressure on Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls to make a firm commitment to the proposed high-speed rail line after weeks of uncertainty, all eight leaders of the powerful ‘Core Cities’ group of councils – which includes Leeds – have voiced concern at the party’s wavering stance on HS2.
“We’ve all done it,” said Coun Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds Council. “I’ve written in strong support (of HS2), saying our cities need investment in railways – particularly in the North.”
All eight letters were directed to Mary Creagh, the MP for Wakefield, who was installed as Shadow Transport Secretary soon after Mr Balls first questioned the “benefits” of the £42.6bn rail line last month.
David Cameron has since made clear the 20-year project - which will cut journey times from Leeds to London to 1 hour 22 minutes - is likely to be abandoned if Labour decides to withdraw its support.
The most damaging words for Mr Balls - who is MP for Morley and Outwood - came from Sir Albert Bore, the Core Cities’ spokesman on transport issues, who warned of open warfare with Labour-run town halls.
“If the party continues to put out such a negative message on HS2, I will be concerned there will be a protracted public conflict between the party leadership and the Labour-led core cities,” Sir Albert wrote.
The Conservatives said Labour were now “in disarray” over HS2.
But Mr Balls insisted he would maintain his wait-and-see approach.
“My job as the Shadow Chancellor is to be hard-headed about standing up for value-for-money for taxpayers,” he said.