The government is seeking to counter the influence of Labour metro mayors over northern England’s transport ambitions by appointing a former Conservative cabinet minister as chair of Transport for the North (TfN), according to a report in The Times today (paywall).
Lord (Patrick) McLaughlin, a former Transport Secretary and Conservative Party chair, is reported to be in the running to succeed John Cridland, a former director-general of the CBI business organisation, at TfN.
According to The Times, when contacted Lord McLaughlin did not deny he was seeking the post, which was held by Mr Cridland for almost six years from TfN’s inception until summer 2021.
The paper, reported on the conserativehome website, says: ‘Insiders fear that his [McLaughlin’s] appointment would represent a ministerial power grab and another case of cronyism as the government tries to sideline TfN’.
This website reported on November 22 that the government had stripped TfN of its responsibility and funding for Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR), the planned route across the Pennines between Manchester and Leeds.
This followed an outcry by northern leaders when the government downgraded TfN’s plans for NPR as well as scrapping HS2b, the planned eastern leg of High Speed Rail between Birmingham and Leeds. Now a new outcry from northern leaders is likely to follow today’s news.
TfN has a board with local government representatives, including metro mayors, from 20 councils and combined authorities in the north, including the North of Tyne, North East and Tees Valley combined authorities. Twelve board members are Labour Party representatives, six Conservatives, one Liberal Democrat and one Independent.