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From Iain Donaldson, a Manchester Liberal Democrat Learn more

How it happened – Metrolink Expansion

by Iain Donaldson on 12 July, 2014

Those who think that Metrolink Expansion is a wonderful thing for Manchester, which it is, may be very surprised to find out that it was the Liberal Democrats, and not Labour, who were responsible for it happening.

The Labour Party, under the leadership of Sir Richard Leese, attempted to impose a congestion charge on the City to pay for the proposed expansion, telling us that there was no alternative if we wanted to raise the funds needed to expand metrolink. This ‘no alternative’ message can now be seen for the lie it was at the time.

The Liberal Democrats were still a force to be reckoned with in Greater Manchester at the time, and managed to force the Labour Party to accept a borough wide referendum on whether the congestion charge should be introduced on the grounds that there was no directly elected individual or body with a democratic mandate to take that decision.

The Manchester Evening News (pre being taken over by Labour’s Trinity Mirror Group) reported at the time that Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council and one of the architects of the congestion charge proposals, said: “This was the only opportunity to get £3billion of investment in public transport over the next five years and 10,000 jobs to go with it. So far nobody has been able to put forward a credible alternative to get those levels of investment.”
The Labour Government had still not committed in writing to invest in Metrolink at the time of the 2010 General Election.

On coming to office one of the first acts of the Coaltion Government’s Lib Dem Transport Minister was to announce the funding for not only the desired Metrolink Expansion, but also for a new Picc-Vic line. The investment far outweighed any cuts in local council funding and secures thousands of new jobs for the city.

The commitment of Lib Dems in Government to Manchester’s transport network does not though stop there. Last week Nick Clegg announced a further £12 billion of Growth Deals to create jobs, build homes and boost local economies up to 2020.

Growth Deals will mean every local area in England will have more power over the money they raise and spend and more control over their own economic destiny.

Across the country they are expected to lead to work on over 150 roads, 150 housing developments, 20 stations, as well as to provide small business support services in every part of England and significant investment in skills training, as well as work to improve educational attainment and to get more people from welfare to work.

They will also help to end our over reliance on the banks and the city of London in favour of boosting growth, jobs and ambition in our great towns and cities all across England.

Amongst those is an £18 million to revamp the Metrolink in Manchester, with 12 new trams, improved stations and bus services.

These deals would not be happening without the Liberal Democrats in Government. Nick has led this initiative in Government, after promising in 2010 that by the end of this Parliament every part of the country would have more freedom and more power than at the beginning.

Announcing the deals, Nick said: “We are ending a culture of Whitehall knows best. Decisions over spending on infrastructure, business support and housing are being made at a truly local level.

“It will help end our over-reliance on the banks and the City of London, and generate growth, jobs, and ambition in towns and cities all across England.
“Growth Deals will create thousands of jobs, provide incredible new training opportunities for young people, build thousands of new homes and improve transport links across the country for people and their families; building a stronger economy and a fairer society.

“We’re placing the power and money in the hands of the people who know how to spend it best, making a real difference to local communities.”

Some of the major projects that will be built as a result of these deals include:

£18 million to revamp the Metrolink in Manchester, with 12 new trams, improved stations and bus services.
£23 million for a new road tunnel linking Swindon to Wichelstowe, creating thousands of jobs and homes.
£55 million for London’s Skills Capital programme, a Glass Academy in Sheffield to train young people to work in the city’s glassworks and an Oil and Gas Academy in the Tees Valley.
A new National Agri-Food Campus in York to help the area lead the world in food manufacturing, agricultural technologies, and bio-renewable sectors, creating up to 800 new jobs
Funding for Birmingham to make the most of HS2 – including improving connection to the Birmingham Curzon Street station so that the area can maximise the benefits in terms of investment, jobs and skills.
Funding for broadband networks in areas where provision is not currently available, such as remote areas of the North East.