Burnley Council leader Afrasiab Anwar/ Prime Minister’s decision to cancel the Birmingham to Manchester leg of HS2 is a blow and a betrayal of the North

The recent announcement by the Secretary of State, pledging £20 million worth of funding and support for neglected towns, was met with enthusiasm.
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This government funding is crucial for our town, promising significant contributions to ongoing efforts in revitalising our town centre, addressing anti-social behaviour, and bolstering the local economy.

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It aligns with the priorities and ambitions we have for our borough, which is positive news. However, it’s essential to acknowledge that this funding is long overdue and merely a small step considering the substantial cuts local councils have endured over the past 13 years.

Burnley Council leader Afrasiab Anwar speaks about the cancellation of HS2 and the £20M announced for Burnley in his column this weekBurnley Council leader Afrasiab Anwar speaks about the cancellation of HS2 and the £20M announced for Burnley in his column this week
Burnley Council leader Afrasiab Anwar speaks about the cancellation of HS2 and the £20M announced for Burnley in his column this week
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This falls short of genuine ‘ levelling up’ and one could be forgiven for seeing them as no more than headline-grabbing tactics, potentially driven by pre-election motives. At the Conservative party conference, the Prime Minister’s decision to cancel the Birmingham to Manchester leg of HS2, a crucial infrastructure project linking the North with the Capital, was a blow and a betrayal of the North. It clearly indicated the disdain he has for the people of the North.

Despite promises of redirecting funds to a northern transport network, the concrete plans remain uncertain, and the devil will be in the detail. We’ve learned to be cautious with this government, as its actions often contradict its words.

Crucially, amidst all these announcements, issues that deeply concern our residents, such as rising living costs, health inequality, and antisocial behaviour, remain unaddressed. I’ve been inundated with concerns from residents who cannot access face-to-face medical consultations or have been removed as NHS patients by their dentists. I will be making every effort to address these significant concerns with the ICB and health leaders, but these concerns reflect the consequences of drastic cuts to youth services, policing, NHS investment, and housing, which were painfully evident at our recent full council meeting.

During the meeting, community members voiced their worries about speeding, anti-social behaviour, and the lack of housing investments. Unfortunately, some elected officials seized the opportunity for political gain. It was disheartening, but not surprising, to see the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate conveniently forgetting his role in the cancellation of the Housing Market Renewal programme, which could have transformed our neighbourhoods. He will once again promise to deliver for residents but hasn’t been forgiven for past failures; his inability to reinstate the A&E department and broken promises on student fees are just two examples.

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At the meeting, it was also ironic to witness Conservative colleagues commending the Police Crime Commissioner. The same Police Crime Commissioner who has repeatedly ignored our genuine concerns about speeding problems and the number of accidents along Colne Road. Despite our requests for average speed cameras and funding to combat antisocial behaviour in that specific area, he chose to allocate resources to other parts of the county, prompting concerns about his decision-making. We are still awaiting the data that justifies why other areas were considered more urgent.

Accountability is essential and I will be pressing the Police Crime Commissioner to provide answers.