HS2 salaries 'obscene' says MEP
'Obscene' salaries for officials working on the controversial HS2 rail scheme have been condemned by a West Midlands MEP.
Jill Seymour from UKIP hit out at the plan to give as many as 30 new members of staff more pay than the Prime Minister, who gets £142,500 a year.
Sir David Higgins, boss of the High Speed Two rail project company, revealed the salary plans last week.
And Transport Secretary Patrick Mc Loughlin said he was 'OK' with the proposal, insisting it was 'absolutely essential' to get the right calibre of people.
But Mrs Seymour, the newly elected UKIP MEP who will be sitting on the European Union's transport committee, said: "It is obscene to be spending so much money in the first place on HS2, which will be of little or no benefit to the majority of people in our country.
"To then start employing bureaucrats on these fat-cat salaries, at a time when the UK still has to borrow huge sums to make ends meet, is obscene. It is rubbing salt into the wounds."
Mrs Seymour described HS2 as a 'white elephant' which should be scrapped, with the estimated £50 billion used instead for improving the existing rail and public transport infrastructure.
The first phase of HS2, between London and Birmingham, is due for completion in 2026, with a second Y-shaped section from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds due in 2033.
Phase one of HS2 will cut through 45 miles of Staffordshire countryside, while phase two passes through the county town of Stafford and surrounding villages, impacting on 27 wildlife sites.
Mrs Seymour said: "HS2 isn't for the benefit of the West Midlands. It is being built for the benefit of London. Why should local people be subsidising the six-figure salaries of people who will be bulldozing the plans through?
"The coalition has repeatedly said that no public servants should be paid more than the Prime Minister, so this is a lame climb-down, and case of outrageous double-standards."
She added: "You certainly don't need to draft in high-earning officials to identify the kind of improvements needed on our existing transport network.
"Campaigners have been spelling it out for years, only for their pleas to fall on deaf ears.
"They are the people who know what is needed for the West Midlands transport infrastructure, and it is certainly not HS2, nor faceless bureaucrats earning more money than our Prime Minister."
Mrs Seymour has also criticised what she called the 'undemocratic' distribution of power on European parliament committees.
The European Green Party have backed UKIP's claim that they are are being 'denied' committee chairmanship despite winning the largest number of MEPs in May's elections.
Mrs Seymour said: "Given the level of support which we received from the electorate – not just in the UK but across many other parts of Europe too – we feel we are being unfairly frozen out."
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