Labour councillors meeting at the Association of Labour Councillors in London on 1-2 March think that the Labour Party should reconsider its support for HS2, according to a survey conducted at the meeting (1). 66% of respondents took this view, with only 26% disagreeing and 9% unsure. Thus although 38% of respondents were in favour of HS2, the majority were either against (25%) or undecided (38%) with these two groups wanting a review of current Labour policy.
These findings suggest that the support for HS2 by Labour nationally is not reflected at local level, where increasing numbers of councillors are realising that HS2 will not benefit their localities. 52% of respondents took this view.
Other important findings from the survey were:
• Asked whether HS2 would improve the UK’s competitiveness, rather more respondents said yes (38%) than no (34%). But rather more (45%) thought that HS2 would not reduce regional disparities that those who thought it would (40%).
• A large majority (62%) think that HS2 is poor value for money and the resources would be better spent elsewhere, against only 13% who disagreed. Thus even some supporters of HS2 think that it is not a good way to spend public money.
• The region from which respondents come (London and South East, Midlands and North, other regions) makes relatively little difference to whether they were for or against HS2 or whether they thought it would reduce regional disparities.
• Among respondents from authorities on or very close to the proposed route, only those from locations where a station would be located were in favour of HS2.
Overall, these findings suggest that local support for the party line on HS2 is distinctly flaky. The Labour leadership, nationally and in the big cities, is not carrying the party with them. Moreover, Labour councillors themselves lag behind their electorate – the latest YouGov poll shows 60% of Labour voters oppose HS2.
1. 48 participants at the conference responded to the survey. The respondents included council Leaders and Cabinet members and other councillors, from local authorities across the regions of Britain, and from both Labour-controlled and Conservative and LibDem controlled councils. No claim is made for the respondents’ representativeness of the wider body of Labour councillors – indeed their participation in the ALC conference means they are likely to reflect the views of more active and informed councillors.