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HS2 wrong for county and the UK, says new Green Party business spokesman
GREEN activist Elise Benjamin has said investment in the HS2 rail link “doesn’t stack up”, after she was appointed her party’s national spokesman on business.
Ms Benjamin, the Green Party’s official voice on business, innovation and skills, has criticised the Government’s plan to link London with Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds with a high-speed rail line on the outskirts of North Oxfordshire.
The city councillor for Iffley Fields is on a list of more than 25 senior party figures unveiled in the run-up to next year’s European elections, when the party will hope to use the electorate’s disillusionment with the main parties to win more seats in Brussels.
The list also includes former Oxford city councillor Caroline Lucas, now MP for Brighton Pavilion, and Green MEP for the South East Keith Taylor.
Mum-of-one Ms Benjamin said the HS2 plan would not benefit Oxfordshire and needed to be scrapped: “HS2 is the wrong economic model and the business case doesn’t stack up.
“We can’t afford to wait until 2026 for one railway line when we need to invest more widely in the rail network.
“It would make far more economic sense to put some of the money into improving the existing railway lines and the remaining money into regeneration of the north.”
Ms Benjamin refused to be drawn on another major project on her doorstep – the Westgate centre redevelopment in Oxford.
She said: “I can’t give a specific opinion because I am on the planning committee, but in general terms we always have to consider that Oxford isn’t a large city, so we have to be looking at which economic model fits a large market town with a large tourism base.”
She spoke of her delight at her new role, which will involve appearing on television, radio and in newspapers on behalf of the party, and travelling as part of the European election campaign.
She said: “I’m really honoured to have been asked to be one of the party’s spokespeople.
“I’ve got a lot of experience as a councillor in dealing with local small businesses and I used to chair the economic development committee.
“I also come from a background of innovation – my great-grandfather, my grandfather and my father all used to run businesses, so I have grown up with business and innovation.
“For me, the economic issues around how we earn money and live are incredibly important and I want the focus to be on innovation and skills.”
She said her party’s economic policies were beginning to be taken seriously: “I think when people realise we get our economic policies properly coste by economists then it does change people’s perspectives.”
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