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Government spending

Let’s kill off this white elephant once and for all

An early visualisation of an HS2 train

Rishi Sunak has finally offered public sector workers the 6% pay rise recommended by their independent review boards last year, says Simon Jenkins in The Guardian. Had he done so earlier, we might have avoided “six months of debilitating strikes”. But back then, according to Sunak, the government simply “could not afford” the cost. It’s ridiculous. The government always “finds stacks of money to pay for the things it likes”. In 2012, the Tories splashed £9bn on the Olympics, while some £7bn has been earmarked to restore Westminster. Last week, we sent the new Queen Elizabeth warship to sea, one of two new aircraft carriers that cost £6bn just to get on to the water.

Nothing exemplifies these warped priorities better than HS2. The chaotic rail project is sucking up £5bn a year and may not be finished before 2040, when it will have cost something like £98bn. I wonder how many junior doctors noticed that for every week they’ve been on strike, Sunak has poured £100m into this mess. And for what? After the National Audit Office released a “caustic” report predicting that the upgrades to Euston station would cost almost double the £2.6bn set aside in the budget, the whole Euston arm was “paused”. Given that earlier plans to reach Yorkshire and Manchester have been abandoned, if HS2 ever materialises, it will be “no more than a shuttle service between an off-centre terminal at Birmingham and East Acton”. It is not only Europe’s most expensive rail project, but also the “most unnecessary, and the silliest”. Time to stop throwing good money after bad and shut it down.