Rishi Sunak's government has sparked outrage and derision for claiming its ‘Network North' transport pledge will spend £235m on potholes in London.
The lavish social media post boasted that road repairs in London boroughs including Bromley and Barnet would be funded by cash earmarked for HS2 before Sunak scrapped its northern leg.
The independent first revealed the radical move by Mr Sunak and his chancellor Jeremy Hunt in the autumn to scrap the high-speed rail link from Birmingham to Manchester.
Labor politicians including deputy leader Angela Rayner, Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and shadow transport secretary Louise Hay attacked the London-focused post on social media.
Mrs Rayner, who represents Ashton-under-Lyne, wrote: “Hang on. HS2 money, pledged to ‘level up' the North. Canceled. Redirect to London. Are they real?'
Mr Burnham wrote: “Network North seems to include everywhere – except the North.” Ms Haigh said it was “ridiculous”. He added: “Now it turns out that ‘Network North' actually means repairing roads in London. You couldn't make it up.”
Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotherham said the social media announcement amounted to “exaggeration that would make even the Republican party blush”.
Mr Rotherham said: “It's more smoke and mirrors from the government, a PR stunt by a photo-op prime minister more interested in glossy graphics for social media than tackling the problems real people face.”
The Mayor of Liverpool added: “The question now is, if the government believes that London is now part of the North, will our region start to see the same level of investment in public transport as when London was in the South?”
Among the many mocking the ad posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, TV presenter and campaigner Carol Vorderman said “can someone send them a map”.
Lib Dem MP Tim Farron said it was “great to see the rural north London village finally getting the funding it deserves”.
The Prime Minister faced howls of outrage from northern leaders, business chiefs and senior Tories after he used his Tory conference speech to confirm The independent‘s story that the northern phase of HS2 will be axed.
Former Tory prime minister David Cameron – now foreign secretary – attacked Mr Sunak's decision – saying it “rejected fifteen years of cross-party consensus” and made future infrastructure projects much more difficult.
Responding to backlash to the social media post, Transport Minister Mark Harper wrote that it was “great that people are talking about our Network North plan”.
The Tory cabinet minister claimed that “every penny of the £19.8 billion committed to the northern leg of HS2 will be reinvested in the North”.
Mr Harper also defended spending on potholes – saying the redirected HS2 funding “will ensure road users across London have smoother, faster and safer journeys”. He said the government was “on the side of the drivers”.
The Department for Transport said the funding is part of an £8.3bn investment to upgrade more than 5,000 miles of roads across England.
Between now and March, £7.5m will be made available, followed by a further £7.5m in 2024-2025, with the remainder extending until 2034. Over the next year, Hillingdon will receive £354,000, £455,000 for Bromley and £368,000 for Barnet.