In a speech at the start of the LibDem local election campaign, Nick Clegg criticised local politicians who
“…even when millions of families are feeling the pinch, they’ll both squander taxpayers’ money on waste, inefficiency and their own vanity projects.”
The thing is Clegg is Deputy Prime Minister in a government squandering taxpayer’s money on it’s own vanity project – HS2.
As we said on Monday, the HS2 Ltd’s board minutes show that in September they were sufficiently worried about their own cost inefficiencies to set up a “challenge group” to look into it. (The membership of HS2 Challenge panels has previously been criticised by the Transport Select Committee, who pointed out that only one of their earlier Challenge panels had anyone who was critical of high speed rail.)
It’s also clear that HS2 Ltd are running overbudget. As well as the board minutes, the Department for Transport are also thinking about including a “paving bill” in the Queen’s speech in May. (Have you signed our petition against it?) Paving bills allow government departments to spend money that would go against Treasury guidelines.
HS2 was announced a few weeks before the last general election, by the unelected Labour peer, Lord Adonis. It was Adonis’ vanity project. Since the Coalition came to power, the Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, has continued to back HS2, meaning it is his vanity project too. And Nick Clegg is MP for Sheffield Hallam, close to an HS2 station, but without any of the disbenefits of the HS2 route in his own constituency.