'Wakefield comes first': Council leader defies 'pressure' from rest of West Yorkshire over HS2 letter

The leader of Wakefield Council has defied "pressure" from other West Yorkshire leaders to support HS2 and restated her desire to see the project scrapped.

Thursday, 30th January 2020, 9:57 am
Updated Thursday, 30th January 2020, 10:22 am
Wakefield Council leader Denise Jeffery (top left) and Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake (right) hold different stances over HS2.

The controversial rail scheme, which is under pressure amid scrutiny around its projected costs, has been backed by other local councils, including Leeds.

Phase two of HS2, as it stands, will see a high speed link built to connect Leeds, Birmingham and Manchester, once phase one has linked Birmingham to London.

But both the ruling Labour group and opposition Conservatives sitting on Wakefield Council have fought against the idea for years, while a local pressure group based in Crofton is worried about the impact on their community if the proposed route passes through their village.

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The project has fiercely divided opinion.

A motion against HS2 was supported by every one of Wakefield's 63 councillors, which also includes one Liberal Democrat and two independents, last year.

And speaking at a full council meeting on Wednesday, Coun Jeffery said she'd made the authority's position clear.

She said: "West Yorkshire supports HS2, but Wakefield doesn't.

"There was some pressure put on that I should sign a letter supporting it - well, I couldn't do that.

Coun Jeffery said she wanted to support West Yorkshire colleagues, but was unable to on this occasion.

"I've written our own letter to the Prime Minister on the issue and I hope he will take our views into account.

"I felt we needed to stand up for Wakefield. Obviously we want to support West Yorkshire colleagues but Wakefield comes first."

Tory group leader Nadeem Ahmed, who branded HS2 "a load of rubbish" last year, said there would be "bad consequences" for Wakefield if the scheme went ahead.

He added: "It would mean our services would decline here.

Campaigner Jonathan Pile, who lives in Crofton, has opposed HS2.

"I think it's important we send a message to our Leeds colleagues, in particular Judith Blake, the (council) leader, that we're not going to support this."

Coun Jeffery also welcomed the news that much maligned rail operator Northern had been nationalised by the government.

Speaking less than an hour after the news was confirmed, she said: "This puts people before profit.

"If the government could do this elsewhere in the country, it would be good news."

Local Democracy Reporting Service