Tomorrow’s runway ruling comes at ‘crunch time for UK’s struggling economy’ say Back Heathrow

Parmjit Dhanda, Executive Director of Back Heathrow said: “The Supreme Court judgement comes at a crunch time for the UK’s struggling economy. The go-ahead for a new runway will give hope for new jobs and a post Covid recovery. Else we face the loss of much needed trading opportunities, at a time of growing Brexit uncertainty.

“The CBI, the TUC and over 100,000 local residents have been campaigning for a new runway for many years, with the backing of a 296-vote majority in Parliament. It’s time to get on and build it, and meet our climate reduction targets too.”

Back Heathrow says expansion will bring 180,000 new jobs and 10,000 apprenticeships – something the whole country will benefit from. This can be done with strict compliance to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and investing in sustainable technology that will improve aircraft efficiency and boost the development of commercial sustainable fuels. It’s crucial for the UK to get this long-awaited scheme built.

The Appeal Court ruled against a new runway in February, stating that it did not contain legal commitments on carbon targets set out in the Paris Agreement. All other objections to expansion were not upheld.


Aviation communities have highest unemployment

Unemployment in constituencies around Heathrow has soared since March, a new study by the House of Commons Library shows.

In Hayes and Harlington, the constituency that includes Heathrow, unemployment climbed from 2,725 in March to 7,750 in October – a 184% increase.

The study reveals that other aviation communities across the UK have also suffered – unemployment in Gatwick, Manchester, Luton and Stansted is a third higher compared with regional averages.

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Government should use Tesco cash to save aviation jobs in west London

Business rates relief paid back to the government by Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Aldi and Morrisons should be used to save jobs in the communities around Heathrow airport. That is the verdict of Back Heathrow the community campaign that represents the views of over 100,000 residents and businesses that depend on the airport for their livelihoods.

Whilst booming supermarkets were given 100% waivers to their business rates bills, Heathrow airport has only been given a waiver of 7% of its £120m bill. Heathrow is the country’s largest single site payer of business rates, and its biggest employer.

Back Heathrow Executive Director, Parmjit Dhanda said: “The decision by big supermarkets to hand back over £1bn in business rates relief is welcome. However, Heathrow is on its knees and the west London communities that depend on it are facing a jobs crisis.

“The government could redirect the supermarket money to waive Heathrow’s business rates and save thousands of jobs. Airports in Scotland and Northern Ireland have received a 100% waiver, but not Heathrow. West London needs equal treatment.”

Heathrow airport pays £120m in business rates, yet because of the pandemic it has lost 82% of its flights. So far in 2020 Heathrow has lost £1.5bn in income and has been offered a waiver of just 7% of its business rates.

A recent report by Oxford Economics suggests that up to 62,000 local jobs could be at risk due to the downturn at Heathrow airport. Heathrow is the country’s biggest single site employer and is also the biggest employer in the Prime Minister’s own constituency.

References:

Sainsbury's will hand back up to £440 million saved from Covid business rates holiday | Daily Mail Online

The Oxford Economics report into reduced activity at Heathrow is here


Back Heathrow welcomes local recovery plan

Back Heathrow has welcomed the news that the Heathrow Local Recovery Forum (Chaired by Lord David Blunkett) is calling for collaborative and concerted action to help revive the local economy, which has been so badly affected by reduced activity at the airport during 2020.

Back Heathrow Executive Director Parmjit Dhanda said: “A new and dedicated Job Centre Plus service can help provide the skills and opportunities to keep local people in work and help people find jobs too.

“The recommendations made by Lord Blunkett and the Local Recovery Forum in their report, are very welcome. We hope this plan gets the government support it needs to help our local communities get through the economic fallout from Coronavirus.”

 


We need expansion to kick start the economy, says Back Heathrow

Speaking on the day of Heathrow airport’s appeal to the Supreme Court over its plan for a new runway, Parmjit Dhanda, executive director of Back Heathrow said that the court decision could kick start a jobs recovery.

Mr Dhanda said: “Although this appeal is a technical one about whether the Government took the Paris Agreement into account when agreeing its national policy on airports, the need to create jobs for the future is more important than ever.

“We hope the Supreme Court will back the verdict of an independent commission and a Parliamentary majority of 296 votes and allow expansion at Heathrow. It is clear that this privately funded infrastructure project can create the thousands of jobs and apprenticeships that will help to kick-start a jobs recovery for our country. This can and will be done in accordance with climate change agreements.”

Back Heathrow believes that the existing Airports National Policy Statement already makes clear that approval for expansion would be refused if it impacted the UK’s ability to meet carbon, air and noise targets.

Mr Dhanda added: The Coronavirus pandemic has created a dire situation for airports, airlines and the wider supply chain, with businesses employing hundreds of thousands of people either collapsing or on the brink. A huge hole has been blasted in our national economy, leaving the country woefully underprepared for life in a post-Brexit world. Heathrow expansion presents a great opportunity for our country.”

The Appeal Court ruled against a new runway in February, stating that it did not contain legal commitments on carbon targets set out in the Paris Agreement. All other objections to expansion were not upheld.


Time is running out to save airport communities

The aviation industry is in deep crisis and time is running out for the government to act. Failure to act will have long-term implications for airport communities across the country. That is why GMB London and the Back Heathrow campaign have come together to make the case for urgent action to protect jobs, businesses and the communities we represent.

Campaigners outside the Crown Court in 2019

As Covid-19 has swept across the world, those at the heart of ensuring global connectivity have been hardest hit. Heathrow, the UK’s only hub-airport, was operating at 98% capacity before the virus struck. Millions of people were passing through every month, but by August 2020 passenger traffic had fallen by over 80% compared to the same month last year.

It is a dire situation for airports, airlines and the wider supply chain with businesses employing hundreds of thousands of people either collapsing or on the brink. A huge hole has been blasted in our national economy, leaving the country woefully underprepared for life in a post-Brexit world. It is clear - this is a national emergency for aviation that requires significant, urgent action.

However, instead of taking measures to ensure Britain can protect jobs and trade, the government has passively watched from the side-lines as thousands of skilled, unionised jobs have been lost. We believe there is a real danger that many sizeable airport towns and cities will lose businesses and jobs that may never return, leaving ghost towns where once we saw thriving, diverse communities.  

The government can, and must act decisively to prevent this by:

  1. Recognising the contribution of aviation to the national economy. Over a million people rely on the sector for their livelihoods, and our public services need the £22 billion it adds to our GDP. Aviation is a special case, and the government should recognise that.
  2. Ensuring government investment is supported by a plan to transition to sustainable aviation. Creating a greener industry that meets the demands of a net-zero carbon world can benefit jobs too. By investing in Sustainable Aviation Fuels the government could support aviation and deliver on our environmental commitments.
  3. Providing immediate support, by ensuring the Job Support Scheme remains in place for as long as it takes to protect aviation jobs; and offering respite for airports to help retain staff through the deferral of business rates - as we have already seen in Scotland and Wales.
  4. Creating a national standard for safe flying with appropriate levels of PPE for staff and replacing the blunt quarantine policy with Covid testing at airports – restoring passenger confidence to fly again, as over 50 other nations have done already.
  5. Stop delaying Heathrow's expansion. When the Supreme Court has had it say this Autumn, the government should concentrate on delivering the long-term capacity at Heathrow that Parliament and an Independent Commission has called for. London and the country need the 180,000 new jobs and 10,000 apprenticeships that expansion will deliver. This can and must be done with strict compliance to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

It is time for the government to get serious about our airports, our aviation industry and its vast supply chain. GMB London and Back Heathrow want action to protect jobs, action to help businesses to trade and action to ensure the fabric of life in so many airport towns remains intact. There is no more time to lose.

This article was co-authored by the GMB union and Back Heathrow.


Local people call for action to save Heathrow jobs after ‘harrowing’ independent report

An independent report which suggests that over 60,000 local jobs could be lost in the six boroughs around Heathrow airport, unless there is urgent government action, has been described as ‘harrowing’.

Mr Shafick Emmambokus said: “I have lived in the borough of Hounslow almost all my working life. Local people are reliant on the airport to feed their families and pay their mortgages. Covid-19 has had a disastrous impact on aviation related jobs. I know many people that face financial ruin. We need Heathrow airport up and running again urgently.”

The full impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on Heathrow airport and the economy of west London was revealed in a new report by Oxford Economics.

It says reduced activity at Heathrow (where passenger traffic is down 81% this year) will have a significant impact on the local economy in six boroughs in particular: Ealing, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Slough, South Bucks and Spelthorne.

The report estimates that Heathrow supports 133,600 jobs across this study area in total – equivalent to around one in six jobs within the local workforce. The authors set out scenarios for job losses depending on how quickly passenger and cargo levels return to pre-crisis levels.

The central forecast says there could be 37,000 fewer jobs next year. However, the report’s worst-case scenario suggests that up to 62,000 jobs could be lost across the six boroughs.

Back Heathrow executive director, Parmjit Dhanda said: “This is a harrowing report for west London and the Thames Valley. We need the government to act to save jobs across the aviation sector and in our local communities, right now. Its sluggish response to the crisis in aviation is hurting communities in all of the boroughs that neighbour Heathrow.”

The Back Heathrow campaign, local businesses and trade unions are calling for urgent government action to end the current quarantine arrangements and replace it with Covid-19 testing at airports.

The Oxford Economics report can be downloaded here.


Council spending opposing Heathrow expansion exposed by freedom of information requests

Local councils’ expenditure opposing a new runway at Heathrow has hit a new high after freedom of information requests made by the Back Heathrow campaign revealed how much they had spent in the period September 2018 to March 2020.

Hillingdon, Windsor & Maidenhead, Hammersmith & Fulham, Richmond and Wandsworth Councils, plus Transport for London collectively spent over £1m of taxpayers’ money challenging Heathrow’s proposed expansion in the last 18 months alone (see figures below).

Fiona Sadek (Above)

In total – including previous FOI requests – these boroughs have spent a combined sum of nearly £3m of tax-payers money opposing Heathrow’s new runway over the past decade.

Parmjit Dhanda, executive director of Back Heathrow said: “Although councils have a right to spend taxpayers’ money on lawyers, legal fees, propaganda and anti-expansion campaign groups, I think they need to be more upfront and honest about it. It shouldn’t require FOI requests to obtain this information. Many local people think this is a waste of money at a time when their jobs in the aviation sector are already under huge pressure.”

Fiona Sadek, a local resident from Richmond said: “Heathrow is by miles the biggest local employer in west London. Who gave my council permission to spend my money on this stupid campaign against more local jobs? My neighbours and I think council tax should be spent on council services. Plain and simple.”

In February, the Appeal Court ruled that Heathrow expansion had met the required standards on air quality and noise, but more worked needed to be done to show how the Paris Agreement on carbon reduction targets would be met. The Supreme Court will give further consideration to Heathrow’s expansion in the Autumn.

Borough and TfL spending September 2018 – March 2020

Hillingdon

£159,626.50 on legal fees.

£528.65 on publicity.

Stop Heathrow Expansion – £52,000.

No 3rd Runway group – £134,696.50.

Transport for London

£452,336 spent on legal fees.

Royal borough of Windsor and Maidenhead

£110,417.71 on legal fees.

Hammersmith and Fulham

£35,000 on legal fees.

Richmond and Wandsworth Councils (combined figure due to shared back office functions)

£126,078 on legal fees

£200.00 on publicity.


Richmond and Wandsworth councils spending exposed by FOI request

Local councils’ expenditure opposing a new runway at Heathrow has hit a new high after Richmond and Wandsworth Councils finally responded to freedom of information requests made by the Back Heathrow campaign.

The two councils admitted to spending over £126,000 of council taxpayers’ money on legal fees between September 2018 to March 2020 opposing the scheme, which could create up to 180,000 new jobs and 10,000 apprenticeships.

Richmond and Wandsworth now join other local councils that have revealed their expenditure, at a time when council funding for services is scarce. Hillingdon, Windsor & Maidenhead and the Hammersmith & Fulham Councils revealed their responses to the FOI request last month (see figures below).

That means local councils and Transport for London have spent over £1m of taxpayers’ money challenging Heathrow’s expansion in the last 18 months alone.

In total, including from previous FOI requests, these local boroughs have spent a combined sum of nearly £3m of tax-payers money opposing Heathrow’s new runway over the past decade.

Parmjit Dhanda, executive director of Back Heathrow said: “These FOI requests give us all a sobering reminder that whilst some politicians talk about building shovel-ready infrastructure projects to kick-start the economy, the reality on the ground is different. Lawyers have become wealthy through these councils handing out their residents’ cash. It would be sensible if they engaged constructively with the project instead, to help build the cleanest and greenest new runway in the world.”

Warren Kenny, GMB union’s London regional secretary said: “After Parliament gave the green light in 2018 it is extremely disappointing to discover the extent to which local councillors gave the go ahead to spend shed loads of taxpayers’ money to prolong the process. This is a serious waste of taxpayers’ money. Expensive legal challenges will jeopardise 180,000 new jobs and 10,000 apprenticeships – just at the time when they are needed most. The public take a very dim view of this activity.”

Peter Kavanagh, Unite the Union’s London and Eastern Regional Secretary said: “These councils should be spending their resources on public services for their citizens. It is not the time to be wasting money on expensive lawyers. Now, more than ever, we need to create quality unionised jobs with a new runway at Heathrow airport.”

Sally Smith, Chief Operating Officer of Hounslow Chamber of Commerce said: “If the UK is to mount a fightback from this economic crisis, the government and London councils should make Heathrow and a new runway the centrepiece for our economic recovery.”

In February, the Appeal Court ruled that Heathrow expansion had met the required standards on air quality and noise, but more worked needed to be done to show how the Paris Agreement on carbon reduction targets would be met. The Supreme Court will give further consideration to Heathrow’s expansion in the Autumn.

 

Borough and TfL spending September 2018 – March 2020

Hillingdon

£159,626.50 on legal fees.

£528.65 on publicity.

Stop Heathrow Expansion – £52,000.

No 3rd Runway group – £134,696.50.

Transport for London

£452,336 spent on legal fees.

Royal borough of Windsor and Maidenhead

£110,417.71 on legal fees.

Hammersmith and Fulham

£35,000 on legal fees.

Richmond and Wandsworth Councils (combined figure due to shared back office functions)

£126,078 on legal fees

£200.00 on publicity.


Testing Times for UK Aviation

Testing for Covid-19 at airports is not a new idea. Many countries introduced testing as early as March 2020. We’re still grappling with the idea in the UK, and its August.

Every passenger arriving at Hong Kong Airport is being tested for Coivid-19. The tests are done at a temporary testing facility near the airport and results are available within eight hours. Passengers wait until the results are known and, when they receive a negative, they are allowed to enter the country.   

A variation of this process has been adopted in Singapore, Japan and Dubai. At Vienna’s airport tests are offered to passengers pre-departure. If they receive a clean bill of health they will avoid quarantine at the destination.

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