An influential group of Tory MPs are pressing the Prime Minister to not delay stumping up the money from cancelling HS2 to help them regional transport projects.
The group of eight East Midlands Conservative MPs, who are also facing significant challenges to hold on to their seats, have written a joint letter raising concerns that money may not come to the region until after its first mayor is elected in 2024.
The challenge led by East Midlands mayoral candidate Ben Bradley along with fellow MPs has urged the Government to give “green light” in the Budget for local transport projects, telling the PM “there is no reason to wait”.
Mr Bradley, the MP for Mansfield, and all the backbench Conservative MPs from the East Midlands have called on the Prime Minister to “urgently set out a timetable” for the delivery of East Midlands transport projects further to the PM’s announcement of the £36billion Network North package.
In the letter, organised by Mr Bradley, who has recently been selected by the party to be its East Midlands mayoral candidate in May 2024, the eight MPs asked the PM to ensure “we can get underway well before the next general election” so that they can “retain Conservative seats, and pay back the trust of voters.”
The other MPs are Brendan Clarke-Smith, Darren Henry, Tom Randall, Heather Wheeler, Pauline Latham, Maggie Throup and Nigel Mills.
They have warned against the risk of stumbling “into a two-track process” which favours areas which have mayors already, and urged the PM to ensure that funding for East Midlands projects is “given the green light in the forthcoming autumn budget”.
They also cautioned against a focus on areas with mayors “at the expense of our smaller cities, towns and villages”, referencing the fact that the East Midlands doesn’t have a mayor until May 2024:
They said: “As MPs representing the East Midlands, we have a duty to ensure our constituents are not sidelined simply because they do not yet have a mayor or a combined authority to lobby government on their behalf.”
The MPs drew attention to the fact that between 2009/10 and 2019/20 London enjoyed transport spending equivalent to £864 per person, more than double the national average of £430, saying that “it’s vital that we redress this imbalance.”
The MPs added that “there is a huge dividend waiting to be unlocked in regions outside London, both economically and politically” which would “unlock a surge in productivity, create local employment and training prospects for young people, provide greater mobility and opportunity for the elderly, and allow our party to deliver on the promises we made in 2019.”
There has been some concern that while Mr Sunak announced the money would go to the north and midlands, Transport Secretary Mark Harper was in the south west this week saying they would get a share.
With the election coming up next year and the Tories 20 points behind in the polls MPs are pushing to ensure that one of the key promises in 2019 to level up at least gets underway as they fight to hold on to their seats.
In his conference speech, Mr Sunak pledged that “every single penny” of the £36billion released by cancelling the Midlands to Manchester leg of HS2 would be spent on “hundreds of new transport projects in the North and the Midlands, and across the country”.