HS2 has ‘sucked life’ out of West Midlands, says councillor
A West Midlands councill condemned the repeated delays and high cost of the West Midlands tram network development
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A Wolverhampton councillor has condemned the repeated delays and high cost of the West Midlands tram network development.
Deputy leader Stephen Simkins (Lab, Bilston South) blamed poor ‘governance’ and spiralling costs due to HS2 for the issues.
He addressed the WMCA board on Friday (June 9) in a discussion around the rebooted Wednesbury to Brierley Hill metro extension.
A government grant has been secured to continue works, stalled in July due to financial pressures, from Dudley town centre to the Merry Hill water front, adding three more stops.
But Coun Simkins expressed concern that the reputations of local authorities were on the line.
Addressing Mayor Andy Street, he said: “I’m sorry Andy but we’ve had this for such a long while and really, from our experience in Wolverhampton, there seems to be a lack of governance.
“Some of these costs have spiralled out of control and not always due to inflation.
“Yes there’s impact that comes from other sources.
“HS2 has sucked all of the lifeblood out of the West Midlands with regards to materials and skills.
“We need to make sure that this thing bolsters our reputation with regards to transport.”
Coun Simpkin also decried the region’s reliance on foreign manufacturing, adding: “When we have a problem with the trams or the track we have to go abroad.
“Isn’t it time that we put some invetment in encouraging local businesses [to produce materials we need]?”
Dudley Council leader Patrick Harley (Cons, Kingswinford South) agreed more focus was needed to manage the finances of large scale projects.
He claimed Dudley has saved “in excess of £4 million” by establishing a procurement department to scrutinise contracts despite being advised by officers it “wasn’t needed”.
“We need to keep checking the costs” he said.
“With good governance, with some more scrutiny, every million pounds or so we shave off that project means we go that little bit further.”
Mayor Andy Street confirmed there had been a lot of “thinking” about structures in Transport for West Midlands and this would be drawn together and reported back to the board in a “constructive” way.