Government ‘willing to talk’ to Wakefield Council over £50bn HS2 plans

Minister for the Cabinet, MP Francis Maude, during his visit to the Wakefield Express office. 'Pictured L to R) YWNG Group Editor & Editor of the Wakefield Express - Mark Bradley, Minister for the Cabinet, MP Francis Maude and Conservative party candidate Andrea Jenkyns.'Photograph: Andrew Bellis.'w320g347
Minister for the Cabinet, MP Francis Maude, during his visit to the Wakefield Express office. 'Pictured L to R) YWNG Group Editor & Editor of the Wakefield Express - Mark Bradley, Minister for the Cabinet, MP Francis Maude and Conservative party candidate Andrea Jenkyns.'Photograph: Andrew Bellis.'w320g347
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Government ministers are willing to meet Wakefield Council leaders over their concerns that cash spent on the HS2 rail line could be better spent on infrastructure.

MP Francis Maude said the government is “always willing” to speak to council leaders about their concerns, after Wakefield Council demanded a meeting with ministers over proposals for the £50bn high speed rail network.

Minister for the Cabinet, MP Francis Maude. w320c347

Minister for the Cabinet, MP Francis Maude. w320c347

Mr Maude agreed to the meeting during a visit to the Express office yesterday.

He was in Yorkshire to show his support for Tory candidate Andrea Jenkyns, who is standing against Ed Balls for the Morley and Outwood seat in the next general election.

He said: “My colleagues are always willing to talk to council leaders. What we’re seeing at the minute is a number of leaders who have concerns that Labour has seemed a bit indecisive about HS2.

“We take a long-term view of this infrastructure process. Labour proposed the scheme, we supported it and the coalition has taken it forward.

Minister for the Cabinet, MP Francis Maude, during his visit to the Wakefield Express office. 'Pictured during the interview with YWNG journalist Lauren Potts.'Photograph: Andrew Bellis.'w320e347

Minister for the Cabinet, MP Francis Maude, during his visit to the Wakefield Express office. 'Pictured during the interview with YWNG journalist Lauren Potts.'Photograph: Andrew Bellis.'w320e347

“It’s not instead of investment in rail, there’s two or three times more money being spent on other rail services.”

Mr Maude said there has been a lack of an investment in infrastructure nationwide, but that in his role as minister for the cabinet office, his work in cutting the government’s running costs will see more money being made available for future projects.

He said: “We’ve saved £10bn in the last financial year and we expect that to rise. These are signs that over the years, that will pay for HS2 many times over.

“That’s what we should be spending money on – the long term structure to rebalance the economy.”

Mr Maude gave his full support to Miss Jenkyns, who is hoping to win one of the area’s most marginal seats.

He said: “We made a lot of progress last time, the majority hold is very slender. We’ve got a fantastic candidate – she’s got a really interesting and varied background and she’s done a lot of things in the real world.

“To be truthful there aren’t enough people in politics like that.”