They must think we are thick – Burnham blasts offer of HS2 money for pot hole repairs

Burnham on the first Bee Network bus in Bolton

The Government’s Network North plan to invest in transport projects using money for the scrapped HS2 has been blasted by Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham this morning.

Reacting to a headline in a Conservative loyalist newspaper that hailed this as Rishi firing up the North, Burnham said on X (Twitter): “Didn’t they promise this exactly 10 years ago? They must think we are thick.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Transport Secretary Mark Harper said the North West will receive a £1.48 billion boost from April 2025 through the Local Transport Fund to improve the transport connections that so many people rely on every day across smaller cities, towns, and rural areas.

The new investment, badged as Network North, they claimed, will deliver “an unprecedented long term funding uplift” across the region over seven years.

In a clear attempt to claw back support in the so-called “Red Wall” Sunak said the transport fund will be targeted at “smaller cities, towns, and rural areas”, which he claimed would empower local communities and local leaders to invest in the transport projects that matter most to their areas.

Local councils will receive the funding and will have to get sign-off from ministers for a transport funding plan.

Priority in the plans must be given to routine road improvements, said Sunak, specifically mentioning: building new roads and improving junctions; improving roads by filling in potholes and better street lighting for personal safety; improving journey times for car and bus users by tackling congestion; increasing the number of EV charge points; refurbishing bus and rail stations; and “improving our streets so they are safer to walk children to school and increasing accessibility for all”.

There will also be a requirement for councils to work with local MPs and plans will be “held to account by the government as well as their communities”.

Northern Powerhouse Partnership chief executive Henri Murison speaking to the BBC this morning said he didn’t understand why the cabinet meeting today is happening in Yorkshire when the government aren’t announcing anything new. “That (is) still jam tomorrow,” he said. “Most of this money won’t be spent until later in the decade, none of it will be spent before the general election. So I think voters in the North of England will look back at the last 14 years at what hasn’t been delivered and consider that promises of what the Prime Minister might do in the next Parliament are perhaps not the most important.”