Back Heathrow campaigners have reacted with anger to Hillingdon Council’s astonishing decision to ban post from residents to councillors on Heathrow expansion. Over 1,200 residents signed campaign cards which they delivered to the reception desk of the Civic Centre on January 31. The cards were addressed to named councillors by individual residents who live in their wards.
The cards should have been passed on to Hillingdon’s councillors. Instead, council leader Ray Puddifoot intervened unilaterally to block circulation to the borough’s 65 councillors. He then instructed officials to despatch them, at taxpayers’ expense, to the Back Heathrow office. Councillor Puddifoot instructed his staff to enclose a letter stating that materials from Back Heathrow supporters must not be passed on to councillors.
Local resident Ali Berry said: “I am furious. I handed in response slips to represent my views and the views of other residents from Harefield. I want to tell Councillor Puddifoot in no uncertain terms that this is an affront to local democracy. He should apologise to us at once.”
Hayes resident Keith Hendry said: “What right does Councillor Puddifoot have to steal mail from me to my local councillor? He is desperate to quash all debate on Heathrow expansion. He is out on a limb and out of touch with Hillingdon’s residents. Councillors shouldn’t be banned from receiving correspondence just because it goes against the grain of the leader’s thinking.”
Back Heathrow’s executive director, Parmjit Dhanda said: “Councillor Puddifoot has every right to oppose Heathrow expansion, but this is rather eccentric behaviour. It effectively means that locally elected councillors are banned by the council leader from receiving correspondence from their residents – correspondence that residents have signed, addressed and dated. Mr Puddifoot has just unilaterally disenfranchised over 1,200 Hillingdon residents and blocked constituents’ correspondence to local councillors. It doesn’t show local democracy in a London borough in a good light.”
The campaign cards were all signed individually by residents and span all 22 wards, including 31 in the Leader’s own ward. They declare support for a new runway and urge councillors to end the spending of taxpayers’ money to oppose the project. The spending has now exceeded £1.2m over ten years.
Residents have expressed their concern that the council has wasted taxpayers’ money on a legal challenge whilst resourcing local anti-expansion campaign groups. The council is also looking to raise council tax by 2.4% per cent this year, the first rise for ten years.
Hillingdon council has funded anti-expansion campaign groups ‘Stop Heathrow Expansion’, (£100,800), and ‘No Third Runway Coalition’, (£174,000). Between January 2007 and August 2016, Hillingdon spent £827,000 on legal services, campaigning and community engagement. Since then the council has spent £620,000, with £275,000 going towards funding anti-Heathrow campaign groups. It has received £330,000 in contributions towards these funds from other boroughs.
On January 17 in Hillingdon’s council chamber, Councillor Puddifoot pledged a further £413,000 in 2019 for anti-expansion campaigning.
Independent polling by Populus shows that more people in the 12 constituencies adjacent to Heathrow, including Hillingdon support Heathrow expansion than oppose it.