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Treasury chief in bypass gaffe

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Treasury chief Danny Alexander MP jumped the gun when he publicly pledged work on the Dunstable A5 northern bypass “will start next spring”.

There was a warm welcome from bypass supporters after he gave that assurance to South West Beds MP Andrew Selous in the House of Commons.

But now Mr Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, has admitted he should in fact have stated that work on the road will start ‘in 2014/15’.

That could mean a start date any time from next spring through to March 31, 2015.

In a letter to Mr Selous, Mr Alexander wrote that a ministerial correction would be issued to amend the official record of Parliamentary proceedings.

The bypass, also called the A5-M1 link road, has been earmarked as a key project within the government’s top 40 priority investments.

Mr Selous told the Gazette: “I am pretty fed up. I am just irritated that he didn’t give the correct answer when I asked him about this in the Commons.

“Having said that, I will continue to put every pressure possible on the Highways Agency and the Department for Transport to start the work as soon as possible.

“He has said 2014/15 and my job is to make sure it is very much at the earlier end of that period.

“I very much want to see diggers on the ground as early as possible next year.

“I will try to move every obstacle out of the way.

“We will keep pushing on to get the road built as soon as possible.”

Andrew Selous was given the initial reassurance when he raised the matter in the House of Commons at Treasury Questions.

Mr Selous emphasised that it was essential to build infrastructure more quickly.

He pointed out: “In my constituency, the A5-M1 link road was announced 10 years ago, in 2003, and a shovel has yet to hit the ground.”

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury then told him: “Work will start next spring.”

The Highways Agency website puts the bypass costs at between £171m to £217m.

There are predictions that the A5 bypass and the planned new Woodside Link road will boost economic growth and help bring thousands of new jobs to the area.

In last week’s Gazette, David Ashlee, Dunstable Town Council’s town clerk and chief executive, emphasised the pressing need for the Dunstable A5 northern bypass.

He said: “It is vital for the future prosperity of the town.”

 

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