April 22, 2024

Cheshire East battle to claw back £8.6m HS2 money from Govt

HS2 - Council Tax hike - chief executive appointed

Cheshire East is still trying to claw back the money it spent on HS2 after the government scrapped the northern leg of the scheme last year, writes Belinda Ryan.

The council spent £11m preparing for HS2 coming to Crewe and £8.6m of that will now have to be written off if the government doesn’t cough up.

This has derailed the council’s finances and, without government reimbursement, that money has to come from Cheshire East’s already low reserves.

The council has been slated by residents on social media for spending their cash on the aborted project.

But deputy leader Craig Browne (Alderley Edge, Ind), who chairs the highways and transport committee, said the expenditure was necessary at the time to try and get the best deal for areas which would have been affected by the high speed rail scheme.

Speaking at the corporate policy committee, Cllr Browne said: “We incurred those costs because we were required to as part of the petitioning process.

“We had to, as part of that petitioning process, gather an independent body of evidence to place before consultants, parliamentary select committee, HS2 etc.

“Without that body of evidence we would not have been successful, either the previous administration under phase 2a or the current administration under phase 2b, in gaining those really key mitigations in terms of highways, in terms of ecology, in terms of environmental mitigations that we were honour-bound to secure on behalf of the communities that would have been affected by HS2 had it been delivered.”

He added: “That is why we incurred the £11m of cost and, yes, the government should, in my opinion, reimburse us for all of it.”

Council leader Sam Corcoran (Lab) has repeatedly said the council had spent that money trusting the government to deliver what it promised.

He told a meeting of the full council in October, the month Rishi Sunak scrapped HS2: “We live in a strange world where you cannot rely on a government to stand by legislation that it passed just two years ago.”

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