In Response to Back Heathrow’s formal complaint to the Information Commissioner, Hillingdon Council have admitted to:
- Spending £621,310.97 of taxpayer’s money campaigning against Heathrow expansion since August 2016
- Funding campaign group SHE (Stop Heathrow Expansion) to the tune of £100,800
- Giving the No 3 rd Runway Group £174,000 of tax-payers money
This information was only made public by Hillingdon Council after Back Heathrow published a press release yesterday making public the fact that Hillingdon had been reported to the Information Commissioner for refusing to answer Freedom of Information Requests dating back to 27th July 2018.
Hillingdon provided the information within 4 hours of the Back Heathrow press release going out.
Executive Director of Back Heathrow Parmjit Dhanda said: “I warned Hillingdon Council some weeks ago that they wouldn’t get away with hiding the truth about expenditure of scarce tax-payers money, but they acted is if they were above the law.
“But now the truth is out. Despite the fact the vast majority of MPs voted for a new runway and the fact that polling shows most residents want a new runway, the Council has spent well over £600,000 on expensive lawyers and anti-expansion groups. That’s all money that could have been spent on crucial local services like social care, and children’s services in Hillingdon.”
- Issued at 11am, 1 November 2018
A formal complaint to the Information Commissioner has been made by Back Heathrow (a campaign group representing 100,000 residents who support Heathrow’s expansion) after Hillingdon Council refused to reveal how much tax-payers money they are spending on legal action against Heathrow expansion.
Hillingdon is one of the five councils taking expensive legal action to block a decision by a majority of Labour and Conservative MPs to build a new runway at Heathrow. The new runway is forecast to create 77,000 new local jobs, and recent independent polling by Populus suggests most Hillingdon residents back the project.
Over the past decade the councils opposing the project have racked up over £1 million of taxpayer’s money on expensive lawyers, legal fees and funding opposition groups.
In a series of FOIs (Freedom of Information Requests) Back Heathrow asked Hillingdon how much they have spent in the latest round of judicial review action against a new runway. However, Hillingdon failed to answer the question on what they had spent, instead directing the group to a general page on their website, presenting no information.
A review of the response went unanswered by the council and a formal complaint has now been submitted to the Information Commissioner’s Office.
Back Heathrow Executive Director Parmjit Dhanda said: “Hillingdon Council has every right to take legal action if it so wishes. But if it is so proud of its actions, why won’t it tell local residents how much of their money they are spending to fund this? Is it because they got hammered last year by their own staff and local families for spending £215,000 on legal fees fighting Heathrow whilst proposing to cut children’s centres?
“If Hillingdon think they are right, then they should just tell local people how they have chosen to spend their council tax. Their refusal to do so means we have had to involve the Information Commissioner.”
Timeline of events
- Back Heathrow sent the original FOI request on the 27th June 2018
- Hillingdon Council replied, declined to provide a response and instead directing Back Heathrow to its website on 25th July 2018
- Back Heathrow sought an internal review of the inadequate response on 18th September 2018
- After no response was received from Hillingdon, Back Heathrow complained to the Information Commissioner on 25th October 2018
Trade unions have signalled their continued and strong support for Heathrow expansion at the Trade Union Congress (TUC) annual congress in Manchester this week.
The TUC is the umbrella organisation for the country’s trade unions, representing nearly 6 million workers.
Delegates from unions across the UK attend Congress each year to raise issues for discussion and debate for the coming year.
Executive director Parmjit Dhanda said, “We could not have won the argument for a new runway in Parliament without strong backing from trade unions like Unite and the GMB. The TUC’s resolute support has been underpinned by the need for quality, unionised jobs and apprenticeships, for our country and the local community.”
“It’s great to be here in Manchester alongside TUC Deputy General Secretary, Paul Nowak, to hear him reiterate the TUC’s support on expansion at Heathrow. But we’re also here to commit to work together to ensure that the commitments made are delivered in full, as set out this week by Lord Blunkett, Chair of the Heathrow Skills Taskforce.”
Paul Nowak (left) and Parmjit Dhanda (right) at the TUC Congress on Monday night
Speaking at the event, Mr Nowak said: “Aviation matters in this country, it’s an industry worth £52 billion a year and a million jobs in our aviation industry - many of them good quality, unionised jobs.
“We want to see a successful, thriving aviation industry in our country and a successful, thriving Heathrow. It matters to the local community, but it matters right across the UK as well. We know that expansion at Heathrow will result in jobs not just in the local community but right across all the regions and nations of the UK.
“As we move to build the third runway, we want to do it in a way where we’re working in partnership with Heathrow. We want to make sure this project is built on time, on budget, in a way that maximises the benefits for the UK supply chain and that gives us the best quality employment support, as well as good quality apprenticeships for our young people.
“We want to see this project be the underpinnings of really good quality employment at Heathrow and beyond.”
Back Heathrow and Unite the Union tell London Councils: Stop Wasting Taxpayers Money on Legal Battle
London councils opposed to expansion at Heathrow have spent more than £100,000 of taxpayer’s money fighting it in the last two years, bringing the total to more than one million over the last 10 years. Others have refused to reveal what they have spent.
Community campaign group Back Heathrow has received information provided under the Freedom of Information Act which shows some councils have spent tens of thousands of pounds in advance of an expensive judicial review.
The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead has spent a whopping £73,828.88 on legal services opposing Heathrow since August 2016 and a further £8,352.06 on public relations, advertising and marketing.
In the same period, London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham has spent £8,302 on publicising their position against Heathrow and given a further £1,562 to vocal opposition groups.
The Mayor of London was unable to provide a figure but has utilised resources from staff, saying any work undertaken by the General London Assembly staff will have been done as part of their tax-payer funded role.
Hillingdon failed to answer the question on what they had spent, instead directing Back Heathrow to their website, and presenting no information.
Neither Richmond or Wandsworth Councils responded to the FOI request, a matter that Back Heathrow will be seeking to challenge with the Information Commissioner.
Back Heathrow supporters and Unite the Union members with Parmjit Dhanda and Peter Kavanagh
Peter Kavanagh, Regional Secretary of Unite the Union for London and Eastern Region says: "Councils like Wandsworth, Richmond and Hillingdon have been cutting services for years. Last year alone Hillingdon cut over £200,000 on services whilst finding a similar amount to give to lawyers. The least they can do is answer the questions and tell us how much their legal action is costing residents, many of whom work at the airport."
Parmjit Dhanda, Executive Director at Back Heathrow, says: “Just over a month ago Parliament gave the green light to Heathrow expansion with a cross-party majority of nearly 300 MPs. Polling shows more local people support this project than oppose it. They understand the technological advances that are making aircraft cleaner and quieter, and they want the economic benefits it will bring, including 180,000 new jobs and 10,000 apprenticeships.
"Yet these councils have chosen to spend over £1 million of taxpayer’s money over the past decade on campaign groups and expensive lawyers. Its time they respected the views of local people, businesses, unions and the democratic will of Parliament."
First published on 31/07/18
Hammersmith residents are querying why boroughs across west London are spending council taxpayers’ money trying to block economic growth and overturn Parliament’s decision to back expansion at Heathrow.
At a public meeting hosted by community campaign group Back Heathrow, local supporters of the proposed new runway discussed the overwhelming parliamentary majority in favour of expansion and the decision of five local councils, including Hammersmith and Fulham, to spend local council taxpayers’ money to oppose it.
Nigel Peterson, local resident, said: “We are local people and we need to be listened to. This is an enormous amount of money to spend taking expensive legal proceedings against a project which so many local people support. We would much rather that money be spent on cash-strapped council services like schools or social care.”
Parmjit Dhanda, Executive Director at Back Heathrow, said: “Local authorities need to take notice of the silent majority of their residents. Parliament passed this with a huge majority and with support from across the House. 100,000 people in the boroughs around the airport support this project, as well as the CBI and Unite and GMB unions.
“The new runway will generate 180,000 new jobs, and 10,000 apprenticeships.
"Over the past decade, some local councils have spent nearly £1 million of taxpayers’ money funding campaign groups and expensive lawyers. Its time they respected the views of local people, businesses, unions and the democratic will of Parliament."
First published on 27/07/18
It's time that the five councils taking up a judicial review against a new runway at Heathrow respected the will of local people and MPs - and stopped wasting council taxpayers money, said Back Heathrow.
Back Heathrow's Executive Director Parmjit Dhanda said:
"Less than a month ago Parliament gave the green light to Heathrow expansion with a cross-party majority of nearly 300 MPs. Over 100,000 local people support this project, the CBI and the TUC back it too.The Independent Airport's Commission began this process with a clear report stating that the new runway can create 180,000 new jobs, reduce the number of households affected by noise and meet all environmental obligations.
"Yet these councils have failed to engage in this process or accept technological advances in aviation. Instead they have chosen to spend nearly £1 million of taxpayers money over the past decade on campaign groups and expensive lawyers. Its time they respected the views of of local people, businesses, unions and the democratic will of Parliament."
Back Heathrow is a community organisation with over 100,000 supporters in west London and the Thames Valley who back Heathrow expansion. Presently over 76,000 people work on site at Heathrow and expansion is set to create 180,000 new jobs across the UK and 10,000 apprenticeships. Independent polling by Populus states that more people in the 12 constituencies adjacent to Heathrow support expansion than oppose it.
First published 29/06/18
Back Heathrow Executive Director Parmjit Dhanda joined the Hounslow Pensioners Forum this morning for a good discussion about the planned Heathrow expansion.
With 100,000 registered supporters in West London and the Thames Valley, the campaign group has been backing the local community’s call for a new runway and the thousands of jobs and economic benefits it will bring.
Mr Dhanda says: “With Parliament now in behind the third runway, it was a good opportunity to get out and talk to members of the Hounslow community about the benefits of expansion and to listen to their feedback.
“It’s important to Back Heathrow to help ensure that this is the best possible project for local communities, so we are encouraging groups like the Hounslow Pensioners Forum to help shape those plans when the detailed consultation begins.”