2 October 2023 – today’s press releases

  • Hunt rules out tax cuts as Conservative soap opera continues
  • Water bill hike: Bosses paid £41m in bonuses while customers asked to pay for upgrades
  • Liz Truss’s £18,000 golden goodbye same as five-year mortgage hit for typical Blue Wall family
  • HS2: Rishi Sunak makes Liz Truss look like a political genius
  • Covid Inquiry: Sunak’s failure to send messages is another “Conservative cover up”

Hunt rules out tax cuts as Conservative soap opera continues

Responding to Jeremy Hunt’s latest comments this morning ruling out tax cuts this year, Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson Sarah Olney MP said:

The Conservative Party are fighting like rats in a sack, while families pay the price through higher mortgages, taxes and shopping bills.

People are fed up with this endless Conservative soap opera. Rishi Sunak has lost control of his party and lost the trust of the country. The sooner we get this divided and out-of-touch government out of power the better.

Water bill hike: Bosses paid £41m in bonuses while customers asked to pay for upgrades

  • Lib Dems write to Ofwat and DEFRA Secretary Therese Coffey demanding ban on water company bosses bonuses and shareholder dividends
  • New analysis reveals water company executives received £41 million in bonuses over three years despite sewage scandal
  • £84 proposed increase in bills amounts to a 18.75% increase in the average water and sewage bill

The Liberal Democrats have called on the regulator Ofwat and government to ban water companies from paying out executive bonuses and shareholder dividends, and instead invest the money in upgrading infrastructure to prevent sewage dumping.

It comes as new analysis by the Liberal Democrats has revealed water company executives have been paid over £41 million in bonuses, benefits and incentives over the past three years, despite the ongoing sewage scandal they have presided over.

This includes £9.7m paid out in executive bonuses and benefits in 2022/23, down slightly from £15m the previous year.

Last year dividends paid out to shareholders nearly tripled to £1.4 billion, from £540 million the previous year.

The party’s Environment Spokesperson Tim Farron has written to Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey and Chief Executive of Ofwat David Black, saying that no increase to customers’ bills should be approved while the water companies are paying out huge dividends and bonuses.

It comes after water companies have proposed hiking customer bills by £84 a year to pay for infrastructure upgrades. This is equivalent to an 18.75% ncrease on the current average water and sewage bill for a household of £448 a year.

Liberal Democrat Environment Spokesperson Tim Farron MP said:

It is scandalous that water companies are proposing to hike people’s bills to pay to clean up the mess they themselves have created.

To make matters worse, water company bosses have paid out millions in bonuses and dividends, money that could have been spent upgrading infrastructure instead.

The government and Ofwat must step in and make sure this money is spent on fixing leaky pipes and stopping sewage discharges, instead of on lining the pockets of overseas investors and water company execs.

The public would be rightly outraged if they are made to pay the price for this sewage scandal, while water company bosses continue to trouser huge bonuses.

Liz Truss’s £18,000 golden goodbye same as five-year mortgage hit for typical Blue Wall family

  • Families in the Blue Wall will see a hit of more than £18k over five years – in line with Liz Truss’s “golden goodbye” payout.
  • Analysis reveals households will see a hit of £18,917 in London and £18,160 in the South East over a five-year fixed-rate mortgage.
  • Lib Dems warn it is a “kick in the teeth” as party calls for scrapping of severance pay for failed ex ministers.

Liz Truss’s severance package of over £18,000 has been branded “a kick in the teeth” for families who face paying a similar amount over the coming five years due to soaring mortgage rates caused by her calamitous mini budget.

This comes after Liz Truss’s ‘growth rally’ today, where she was pushing for the policies introduced during her disastrous 49 day premiership.

New analysis using figures provided by the House of Commons Library reveals that families in London fixing their mortgage for the next five years are facing an average hit of £18,917, while those in the South East face a hit of £18,160.

The Liberal Democrats are calling for severance payouts for disgraced ex ministers like Liz Truss to be scrapped.

Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson Sarah Olney MP said:

Liz Truss cashing in £18,000 despite trashing our economy will come as a kick in the teeth to families in London paying the price of her recklessness.

It adds insult to injury that a year later, the Conservative party has welcomed her back with open arms as she calls for the same disastrous approach.

If Rishi Sunak had a spine, the least he’d do is scrap these insulting payouts for disgraced ministers like Liz Truss.

HS2: Rishi Sunak makes Liz Truss look like a political genius

Responding to the reports that the Manchester leg of HS2 is set to be imminently scrapped, Liberal Democrat Transport spokesperson Wera Hobhouse MP said:

Rishi Sunak using a conference in Manchester to cancel the Northern leg of HS2 would make Liz Truss look like a political genius. Yet again, a Conservative Party conference has become mired in chaos while the country suffers.

This would be a bitter blow for communities and businesses who have seen promise after promise broken by this Conservative government. The Conservatives have already trashed today’s economy, now it seems Rishi Sunak is doing everything he can to trash our future economy too.

We have a Prime Minister who flies round the country by helicopter then wants to scrap high-speed rail links for the rest of us. It is the ultimate symbol of a Conservative government that is out of touch, out of ideas and needs to be kicked out of office.

Covid Inquiry: Sunak’s failure to send messages is another “Conservative cover up”

Following the Guardian article that Rishi Sunak has failed to send over his WhatsApp messages from his time as Chancellor to the Covid inquiry, Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper MP said:

It is a disgrace to hear that yet another Conservative has failed to send over their messages to this enquiry. This is straight from the Boris Johnson playbook.

Rishi Sunak’s promise to govern with integrity has been left in tatters. The public deserve the whole truth instead of yet more Conservative cover ups.

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This entry was posted in News and Press releases.


  • Peter Watson 2nd Oct '23 - 11:46pm

    “HS2: Rishi Sunak makes Liz Truss look like a political genius”
    After Lib Dems from around the country flocked to Chesham & Amersham to oppose HS2 (and apparently their own policy) in a by-election campaign, it’s hard to take this party seriously on the issue as well! 🙁

  • Christopher Haigh 3rd Oct '23 - 11:48am

    @peterwatson, HS2 is a very confusing issue.Its hard to work out whether it’s a good or bad proje I wonder if anyone ever did a cost benefit analysis on it ?

  • Nonconformistradical 3rd Oct '23 - 12:07pm

    “HS2 is a very confusing issue”

    Indeed. When the real issue is not so much speed (or lack of) of railway journeys but inadequate capacity, especially in the north of England and especially for freight.

  • HS2 has been very badly marketed. It actually is mostly about capacity. The West Coast Main Line (WCML) from London to the NorthWest has for years been massively overcrowded, and a lot of towns along it can’t get the train services they need because the tracks are occupied by fast non-stopping trains from London to Manchester/Liverpool/Scotland/etc. The idea of HS2 is that if you build a new rail line just for those fastest trains, that takes them off the WCML and so frees up space for many more commuter trains: So suddenly a huge number of places: Watford, Milton Keynes, Northampton, Rugby, Nuneaton, Stafford, Stockport, etc., can get much better local and regional services than is currently possible. A nice side-effect is that a new-build line allows higher speeds – hence the HS2 name – and the much faster journeys between London, Birmingham, Manchester and the North, which should tempt more people away from flying or driving. I would say it’s a great idea and is much needed. But the marketing has been awful and given the misleading impression that HS2 is only about speed – hence much of the opposition to it.

    Unfortunately what’s also happened is that – as so often seems to happen with major infrastructure – the Government has totally lost control of the cost of building it. Something has gone badly wrong, but the constant dithering and pushing timescales back by the Government is now making it worse.

  • Mick Taylor 3rd Oct '23 - 1:08pm

    There is something seriously wrong with the way major infrastructure programs are funded. It’s not just HS2, but the Scottish Ferry and every power station ever built.
    I may be naive, but surely if you tender for a project, you give a price, which is then agreed and unless he project is subsequently changed, then that ought to be the price the government pays. However, it seems that the contractors just keep shoving up the price and the government agrees it.
    It looks on the outside that contractors just put in a low price to get the contact knowing they can just increase it later.
    There really does need to be a complete overhaul of the way the UK builds infrastructure projects to ensure the public purse does not become a bottomless pit.
    On HS2, the UK looks a complete fool. The French have built their HiSpeed railway quickly and efficiently and as far as I can see on budget. One might also suspect that the treasury is allowing HS2 costs to spiral out of control to ensure its demise.
    As an aside, I know there are alternatives to the London side of the project that would be more efficient and cheaper. Is it not down to a responsible and efficient government to consider such alternatives? Oh, but we haven’t got one of them.

  • Peter Davies 3rd Oct '23 - 1:20pm

    “High speed” is more than just a marketing slogan. It started with a specification that it should go a bit faster than the French. The result is a route with faster trains but slower journey times than the sensible scheme Simon describes. The greater minimum curve radius required made it very difficult to go round things or get into Euston (or the more sensible St Pancras).

  • Peter Martin 3rd Oct '23 - 1:31pm

    @ Simon R,

    A good comment.

    Certainly there are several stations on the way to Scotland that could be re-opened if the WCML had fewer express trains. My own local station of Carnforth had its main platforms closed down in 1970 due the need to improve speeds on the line. But there’s not much chance of HS2 being extended to Glasgow or Edinburgh any time soon.

    I’ve always thought that better signalling and the construction of extra loop-lines might be at least a partial solution. Another possibility would be to use the old Central line route into Scotland to divert some traffic.

    Do you know why HS2 can’t use the existing tracks into Euston for the last few miles? Trains will need to be slowing down in any case. So maybe some modification and improvements to the existing tracks would be a feasible alternative, and at much lower cost, to what was originally planned.

  • Covid Inquiry: Sunak’s failure to send messages is another “Conservative cover up”

    On the subject of cover ups, will any Lib Dem MPs be attending October 20th’s adjournment debate on the UK’s now 150,000+ (non-Covid) excess deaths? Or will it be another “complete disgrace to the democracy of my country”?

    ‘Excess deaths debate in parliament’:

  • Peter Martin 3rd Oct '23 - 2:06pm

    Correction: Should be “the old Midland line route into Scotland”

  • @Peter Martin: Thanks, and those are good questions.

    Loop lines can be useful, but the problem on express lines is that for safety, fast-moving trains typically must be at least a few minutes apart. To let a train overtake with that margin, the loop might need to be miles long. That’s tough to add to a line that goes through lots of urban areas. Plus it makes the timetabling really fragile if the fast train can only overtake the slow one at a specific place.

    The existing tracks into Euston are at capacity so no chance of adding HS2 to them. To get into a large terminus like Euston, the trains have to cross each other’s tracks to get to the right platform. That creates a huge pinch point (and is the reason you often find trains waiting outside terminuses).

    You’re in Carnforth? Wow, that’s a lovely area. I used to live in Lancaster, and still love going visiting around there. And yes, it would be really good to re-open those platforms – especially with how congested the roads between Carnforth and Lancaster get.

  • Peter Martin 3rd Oct '23 - 3:05pm

    @ Simon R

    There have been several attempts to re-open the platforms but all attempts have been resisted. It probably won’t happen while the Scottish trains pass at speed.

    The station isn’t completely closed. We still have trains to Barrow and Leeds using different platforms. Also the Barrow trains either stop at Lancaster or carry on to Manchester so it’s still a useful service. We can’t pick up a London or Glasgow train without having to change though.

    Carnforth is the HQ of West Coast Railways which run steam train excursions-sometime using the Settle to Carlisle line, so railway enthusiasts may like to pay us a visit at some time. Film buffs may also like to see the ‘Brief Encounter’ exhibition at the station which is where the film of the same name was partially shot on location during the last months of WW2.

  • @Jeff – my relations in Oz report a similar level of non-interest in this significant change in excess deaths from a specific cause (heart failure), however, there people seem to be linking it to the CoViD-19 vaccine. However, this may be just so that it gets included in the remit of their CoViD inquiry.
    The problem is because no one with repute has flagged this, there is no real data (other than to do the leg work and process the raw data yourself) and hence sources of information are on the fringes and open to question and thus easily dismissed.

  • Jenny Barnes 3rd Oct '23 - 4:12pm

    “HS2 has been very badly marketed. It actually is mostly about capacity”

    Oh, really? I thought it was mostly about shovelling taxpayers money into tory mates’ pockets, while pretending to build a railway.
    If it were mostly about capacity, then it didn’t need to be built for the trains to run at 200 mph, and so the track could have been much more bendy, and avoid difficulties rather than tunnel under them at ENORMOUS Expense.

  • It was obvious from the outset HS2 was nothing more than a Westminster vanity project. This was reinforced when the first route and costings were published it was obvious the project was going to massively overspend and then reinforced once again with the scrabble as straws were clutched at to make an economic and business justification to back up the political decision.

    Riski needs to simply make the decision and kill the project, yes we’ve wasted circa £10bn on it, but killing it now means we don’t waste a further £140bn and growing on it. Remember HS2 is locking up construction supply chains that could be used for better and more economically relevant actIvity.

  • Peter Martin 3rd Oct ’23 – 2:06pm:
    Correction: Should be “the old Midland line route into Scotland”

    The Great Central Main Line (GCML)? The HSUK plan proposed a similar core route…

    ‘High Speed UK – Connecting the Nation’:

    HSUK has been developed by professional railway engineers to offer the people of the UK a real choice to the failing HS2 proposals.

  • Peter Davies 3rd Oct '23 - 4:37pm

    The last three major rail construction projects (HS1, Jubilee line extension and Crossrail) all brought the tunnelling in on time and on budget with everything else running over. Given the overspecification, the high price of land and the near impossibility of altering any aspect of our built or natural landscape, it’s the attempts to avoid tunneling that have been enormously expensive. A tunnel from Old Oak Common to Kings Cross would have been a very small part of the cost.

  • @Jenny My understanding is that building a brand new 200mph track isn’t much more expensive than building a brand new 125mph track. Faster also means cheaper to run because you need fewer trains and staff (think of the time it takes one train and the staff on it to do a round trip and then be ready for the next service). And you’ll get more people to swap from driving or flying – good for the environment and more passengers means it will start to pay back the cost of building quicker. The tunnelling in the chilterns would likely have been needed anyway. So yes – the decision to build HS2 in the first place is mainly motivated by the need to free capacity on the WCML – but if you’re going to build it anyway, it would be silly not to make it high speed when you have the chance to do so. Why would you deliberately build for trains to go slower than they could go?

    @Peter Yeah the Carnforth station museum is great. (And mods – sorry hope you don’t mind this off-topic excursion).

  • George Thomas 3rd Oct '23 - 6:47pm

    So that’s Bradford (a massive city ignored by HS2), Wales (losing out on estimated £5 billion pounds by it being called and England and Wales project) and now anywhere north of Birmingham (scrapping of section most needed) losing out through this government’s handling of HS2.

    P.s. Has Ed Davey spoken about Wales missing out on the estimated £5billion yet?

  • Peter Davies 3rd Oct '23 - 9:42pm

    “My understanding is that building a brand new 200mph track isn’t much more expensive than building a brand new 125mph track. “. The extra between 125mph and 200mph is less than the extra between 200mph and 225mph. Over a 100 mile journey from London to Birmingham, that would save 3.33 minutes. Acceleration and deceleration zones would get the saving down well under 3 minutes. That’s less time than it will take to get from Curzon Street to Moor Street let alone New Street to get an onward train.

    Higher speed actually reduces capacity. The gap you have to leave between trains increases as the square of the speed. That more than compensates for the increased number of trips each train can make. Longer trains are obviously a simple win if you only need long platforms at the termini.

  • Simon R writes “The idea of HS2 is that if you build a new rail line just for those fastest trains, that takes them off the WCML and so frees up space for many more commuter trains: So suddenly a huge number of places…can get much better local and regional services than is currently possible”.
    Hong Kong has developed a successful rail infrastructure funding model The ‘Rail plus Property’ model: Hong Kong’s successful self-financing formula “the government of Hong Kong has enabled MTR to make money from the property-value increases that typically follow the construction of rail lines. The key is a business model called “Rail plus Property” (R+P). For new rail lines, the government provides MTR with land “development rights” at stations or depots along the route. To convert these development rights to land, MTR pays the government a land premium based on the land’s market value without the railway.
    MTR then builds the new rail line and partners with private developers to build properties. The choice of private developer is made through a competitive tender process. MTR receives a share of the profits that developers make from these properties; this share could be a percentage of total development profits, a fixed lump sum, or a portion of commercial properties built on the site. By capturing part of the value of the land and property around railway lines, MTR generates funds for new projects as well as for operations and maintenance. That is why it does not need government subsidies or loans”.

  • @Simon R – “My understanding is that building a brand new 200mph track isn’t much more expensive than building a brand new 125mph track.”

    A 200km/h (125mph) trackbed is as per existing mainlines, a 300km/h (186 mph – HS1) trackbed is more expensive, and a 400km/h (250mph – HS2 design specification) is much more expensive.
    However, these costs are being dwarfed by other project costs. As Peter Davies notes with the distances involved the time savings gained from running trains at 400kmh as opposed to 300kmh are very marginal, so reducing the specification of the trackbed is an obvious place where money could be saved, with ripple on effects through other budget elements including the trains and on-going operational costs.

  • Peter Martin 4th Oct '23 - 9:32am

    @ Jeff,

    Yes, thanks, I think I might have been closer to being right first time.

    I like the concept of HSUK. However I would say that the need isn’t so much about speed as capacity and some addition routes, so maybe the name isn’t quite right. The population centres in England are relatively close to each other so the main requirement is to have a railway that actually works rather than one that transports us from one side to the other at high speed.

    The Beeching cuts of the 60s were disastrous in the longer term. Just when when we should have been integrating the separate networks that were a legacy of the prewar era we chose instead to close down large sections of it. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the routes themselves had been preserved. However they have in places been built over so aren’t easily restorable.

    Nevertheless I agree that we should do what we can with what we have rather than going in for expensive vanity projects.

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