GOVERNMENT-backed transport and infrastructure projects in Leeds will not be completed by the time the Government goes into the next General election, with several schemes yet to have been started.
A detailed look at the Government’s flagship infrastructure pipeline, which George Osborne uses to win spending praise before his Autumn Statement, shows the true cost of the coalition’s early wasted years.
Of the £3.5bn worth of council and Government cash earmarked for new Yorkshire road and rail upgrades, just £472m will be spent in the current financial year. Projects the coalition will be campaigning on but are far from complete include work to the M1 Junctions 32 to 35a and a series of rail upgrades listed as including capacity improvements at Leeds Station.
The Leeds Residual Waste Treatment Project is among six the Government highlighted as getting started, though it is a Leeds council PFI project with no Government funds. The Ferrybridge Multifuel Power Plant is a project led by the private sector. New stations are underway at Apperley Bridge and Kirkstall Forge and the Government is funding Super-Connected Cities broadband in Leeds.
The Department for Transport admits there was an impact of the first 2010 round of spending cuts, but says it now has a steady stream of projects in a system designed to end the “stop start” nature of transport spending.
And department figures show, officials said, a drop in roads cash which started more than a decade ago, a figure which has started to rise again in recent years.
Labour’s shadow Transport Minister Michael Dugher though insisted there was little evidence of cash in the UK transport system and said: “They have been very good at repeatedly re-announcing infrastructure investment for Yorkshire, but then have U-turned on projects and failed to meet deadlines.
“People won’t be fooled and the Government will be judged not on what they promise to deliver in the next Parliament, but on what they have actually delivered in this one.”
Labour said the move brings back memories of 1989 when Margaret Thatcher announced a “roads for prosperity” programme promising 2,700 miles of new or improved roads. Many of these were dropped during the mid-1990s as spending cuts continued.
With another £30bn of deficit savings likely in the next parliament, the fear is that ministers may have to once again rethink projects.