Rail chiefs ‘should be al­lowed to bor­row to invest’

Ca­ble’s plan for the North at Lib Dem con­fer­ence

Yorkshire Post - - POLITICS & ECONOMY - ARJ SINGH WESTMINSTER CORRESPONDENT ■ Email: arj.singh@ypn.co.uk ■ Twit­ter: @sing­harj

TRANS­PORT BOSSES in the North should be given the power to bor­row money to invest in the re­gion’s creak­ing rail­ways, Lib­eral Demo­crat leader Sir Vince Ca­ble has said.

The York-born former Business Sec­re­tary told The Yorkshire Post the North’s rail net­work needs an “over­haul” as it is “ter­ri­bly de­fi­cient and far too slow”.

Speak­ing ahead of the Lib Dem con­fer­ence, which be­gins in Brighton to­day, Sir Vince also sug­gested he was in favour of giv­ing Trans­port of the North (TfN) pow­ers to di­rectly invest in north­ern in­fra­struc­ture.

And lift­ing con­trols over bor­row­ing would free up cash more quickly to spend on im­prov­ing rail­ways which have been blighted by de­lays and over­crowd­ing, “be­cause at the mo­ment Net­work Rail is be­ing se­verely ra­tioned in what it can ac­tu­ally do”.

“The North of Eng­land has been starved of cap­i­tal,” he added.

Sir Vince said he had ar­gued un­suc­cess­fully dur­ing the years of coali­tion Gov­ern­ment for con­trols on bor­row­ing to be lifted dur­ing a pe­riod of his­tor­i­cally low in­ter­est rates.

He went on: “If you are giv­ing them (TfN) full pow­ers, and I can see the point of that, you’ve got to lift the bor­row­ing lim­its.

“If I can draw a par­al­lel with hous­ing, one of the rea­sons houses aren’t be­ing built is that local coun­cils don’t have the free­dom to get on and do it and Gov­ern­ment con­trols them.

“There’s no point set­ting up a trans­port au­thor­ity un­less they have bor­row­ing pow­ers.”

Sir Vince said the Lib Dems would be “mak­ing a big thing” about the “ne­glect” of north­ern in­fra­struc­ture and “the fact that the North­ern Pow­er­house is be­ing side­lined and the Gov­ern­ment is not lis­ten­ing”.

He backed the idea of a One Yorkshire de­vo­lu­tion deal to bring pow­ers and money to the re­gion un­der one mayor, which cur­rently has the sup­port of 18 out of 20 of the re­gion’s coun­cil lead­ers.

But he warned north­ern lead­ers they have to “get on with it”.

He said: “My in­stincts are for the tra­di­tional Yorkshire, which in­cluded Hull, Mid­dles­brough, things that have been lost to other city re­gions.”

Risk­ing controversy, he went on: “So I’m up for restor­ing good old Yorkshire, with York as its cen­tre. The prin­ci­ple of One Yorkshire is right; what I have a slight reser­va­tion about is we are spend­ing a lot of time and en­ergy re­or­gan­is­ing gov­ern­ment and frankly we just need to get on and do things.

“I would like gov­ern­ment to de­volve much more be­cause we’ve be­come a very cen­tralised coun­try.

“I un­der­stand as a York­shire­man why we want to re­con­sti­tute Yorkshire,but pro­vid­ing we’re not spend­ing years re­or­gan­is­ing bu­reau­cra­cies – there’s a danger of that.”

The Lib Dems’ pro­pos­als to scrap al­to­gether business rates, which are levied on com­pa­nies by coun­cils, and re­place them with a tax on the value of land would dis­pro­por­tion­ately help the North, Sir Vince ar­gued.

“Re­gion­ally what it means is that in ar­eas of high land val­ues like cen­tral Lon­don they pay a great deal more and in the North of Eng­land they pay a great deal less in most places,” the leader said.

“We’ve done a lot of de­tailed cal­cu­la­tions of the ben­e­fits that will ac­crue, par­tic­u­larly to the more de­prived com­mu­ni­ties to the North of Eng­land.”

The Lib Dems have been go­ing back­wards in re­cent years in Yorkshire, with their two MPs in the re­gion fall­ing vic­tim to the “Cor­byn surge” in last year’s snap elec­tion, with Sir Nick Clegg in Sh­effield Hal­lam one of the high­est pro­file ca­su­al­ties of the vote.

But Sir Vince in­sisted his party was on the way back in the re­gion, high­light­ing Hull as a “twoparty state” where the Lib Dems are “not far be­hind” Labour, Sh­effield as some­where that is “get­ting much stronger”, York’s coun­cil coali­tion with the Tories and Har­ro­gate as some­where that is “com­ing back to life”.

I’m up for restor­ing good old Yorkshire, with York at the cen­tre. Sir Vince Ca­ble, leader of the Lib­eral Democrats.


SIR VINCE CA­BLE: Said he was in favour of giv­ing Trans­port for the North pow­ers to di­rectly invest in in­fra­struc­ture.

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