McDonnell pledges to close North-South infrastructure spending gap

6 Feb 17

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has pledged to create a “Barnett formula for the North” in order to boost capital spending across the region.

Speaking at a regional economic conference held by the Labour Party in Liverpool, McDonnell also pledged to improve rail networks across the North in a series of improvements that he called “Crossrail for the North”.

He said that this could be partly funded through a pledge to close the gap in infrastructure spending between London and the rest of the country.

“We have to put an end to the Whitehall view that what’s good for the City of London is good for the country as a whole. It’s time for the rest of the country to get a look in,” McDonnell said.

“At present, this Tory government plans to invest less than half the amount per head in the North that London receives. So I can pledge this now: the next Labour government will put in place the mechanisms needed to close that gap in funding.”

This would be implemented through legislation that would compel future governments to audit their regional capital spending against economic need, reporting to parliament when the investment imbalances are deemed “excessive”.

“It’ll be like a ‘Barnett formula for the north’,” McDonnell said.

The government has already pledged to improve east-west rail connectivity in the north of England through a project dubbed High Speed 3.

A review by the National Infrastructure Commission has set out plans for a high capacity HS3 rail network that would cut the journey time between Manchester and Leeds from 49 to 40 minutes by December 2022 and then to 30 minutes in a second phase.

McDonnell said such a scheme would be transformative for the northern economy, but said the government had delayed rail improvement work in the North.

“Labour is absolutely committed to delivering HS3, a Crossrail for the North, starting right here in Liverpool and connecting the great cities of the north of England,” he stated.

“There is so much potential here currently squandered by underinvestment, delays and a lack of real commitment from Whitehall. So with our mayoral candidates in Manchester and Liverpool, and councils across the North, Labour will be pushing for this government to deliver.”

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