‘The public are very conscious of how we’re spending money’: Anti-HS2 funding splits council bosses

AVDC and, below, Councillor Michael Edmonds
AVDC and, below, Councillor Michael Edmonds

Council leaders have clashed over whether another £100,000 should be committed to fighting HS2.

Aylesbury Vale District Council’s cabinet met this week to discuss the cash pledge, with some fearing how this would be perceived by the public.

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The council has already pledged £150,000 to the campaign, £130,000 of which has been spent.

Deputy leader, Councillor Michael Edmonds, and Sir Beville Stanier, cabinet member for environment and health both suggested the figure could be reduced to £50,000.

Mr Edmonds said: “I think it’s right that we should go on and provide funding to continue the fight.

“But £100,000 looks a lot of money.

“I would like to see that changed to possibly £50,000 rather than £100,000.”

Sir Beville added: “The public are very conscious of how we are spending the money.

“I think it would look wrong to go for another £100,000 at this point in time.”

However, other cabinet members said it would be money well spent.

Councillor Pam Pearce, cabinet member for community matters, said: “I don’t think there’s anything bigger and nothing more detrimental to the Vale than HS2.

“To appear to be backing down at this stage would mean that we have wasted the money that we have spent so far.”

Councillor Neil Blake, cabinet member for resources, said people would need to be convinced the money will be well spent.

Not all the money will be spent at once, but by agreeing a figure it will be available when needed.

It was agreed that when any of the money is spent the council leader and chief executive would report back on how it had been used.

Following this amendment to the proposal, all members, including Mr Edmonds and Sir Beville, gave the pledge the green light.

The plan still has to be approved by full council at a later date.

Should it be agreed, much of the money is to be spent employing people to lobby on the HS2 hybrid bill in Parliament.

The Lib Dem district group leader has said his party will not be supporting the cash injection.

Councillor Steven Lambert, who represents Fairford Leys, which will be hit by the £32 billion line, said: “If they were putting £100,000 to fighting the environmental impact or get the best mitigation then I would do it.

“They will not get my support to line lawyers’ pockets.

“I will face down my constituents on that.

“We have got families on the breadline. It’s not acceptable.”

Bucks County Council has pledged £500,000 over three years to fight HS2.