Sunak to hold regional Cabinet as local transport fund announced

Rishi Sunak will hold a Cabinet meeting in Yorkshire and the Humber as the Government sets out how transport funding from its abandoned HS2 plans will be shared across regional councils.

The Prime Minister said he has a “clear plan to level up our country” by investing in projects across the North and the Midlands ahead of the visit.

It comes as Transport Secretary Mark Harper is set to announce allocation details of a local transport fund, coming from the previously announced axing of HS2’s northern leg, which councils will decide how best to spend.

HS2 network
(PA Graphics)

The meeting will be the first time Mr Sunak has held a regional Cabinet outside of conference season since he took office in 2022.

The last time ministers gathered outside of London was for emergency talks ahead of the PM’s announcement that the Government’s flagship high-speed rail project would be scaled back at last year’s meeting of Tory delegates.

At the party’s annual conference in Manchester – the city most directly hit by the change – Mr Sunak confirmed after months of speculation that HS2 plans north of Birmingham would be scrapped amid spiralling costs.

The Prime Minister promised to reinvest “every single penny” of £36 billion previously earmarked for the scheme into hundreds of new transport projects.

At Cabinet on Monday, Mr Sunak is expected to say that ministers and MPs should “hold local authorities to account” to ensure the local transport fund is “used appropriately,” Downing Street said.

The Transport Secretary is also expected to update ministerial colleagues on the delivery of Network North – the Government’s overarching plan to replace HS2’s northern leg.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper during a visit to the site of the HS2 project at Curzon Street station in Birmingham
Transport Secretary Mark Harper during a visit to the site of the HS2 project at Curzon Street station in Birmingham (PA)

The PM and his Government will meet with communities, businesses, and organisations across the North and Midlands to discuss their priorities for the fund and how their area can best benefit from the funding.

Mr Sunak said: “Local transport is at the heart of connecting our communities and this Government has a clear plan to level up our country with greater transport links that people need right across the UK.

“The long-term decision to reallocate funding from HS2 marked a step change in how we invest in transport infrastructure across the country.

“It gave us the opportunity to put £36 billion into projects that will make a real difference – benefiting more people, in more places, more quickly.

“Tomorrow marks a historic moment for the North and Midlands. We are investing billions directly across the region through the first of its kind Local Transport Fund – which fully empowers local people to invest in the transport priorities that matter most to them and their communities.”

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “Tomorrow’s multibillion-pound investment is unprecedented and will be transformational for smaller cities, towns, and rural communities across the North and the Midlands.

“This funding increase is only possible because this Government is willing to take tough decisions like reallocating funding from the second phase of HS2.

“We are sticking to our plan to level up communities with greater transport links right across the country.”

Labour ridiculed what it described as a “back of a fag packet plan” and said communities are “sick and tired” of empty promises.

Shadow secretary for transport Louise Haigh
Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh said communities are ‘sick and tired’ of empty promises (PA)

“The Conservatives’ back of a fag packet plan promised extensions to roads that didn’t exist, tram lines that had already been built and reannouncements of projects they promised a decade ago,” shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh said.

“Communities are sick and tired of the empty promises of this broken Conservative government. After 14 years of ceaseless failure it is clear that staggering Conservative incompetence is holding this country back.

“Labour will work with local leaders, mayors, businesses and unions to deliver a credible and transformative programme of rail and transport infrastructure investment to improve connectivity across the North.”