Government needs a clear plan to open up travel, not a series of last minute changes and contradictory signals, says Back Heathrow
Commenting on the continuing woes of the aviation and travel industry, Parmjit Dhanda, executive director of Back Heathrow said: “The green list announcement is particularly bad news for west London Boroughs and the Thames Valley. Local boroughs around the airport all have thousands of residents on furlough already – over 25,000 in Hounslow alone.
“The government needs a clear plan to open up travel, not a series of last minute changes and contradictory signals. There is no sugar coating for this. There are 1.6 million jobs related to the travel sector, and locally, we're set to be the hardest hit if the government doesn't get a grip of the situation.”
Back Heathrow agrees that the protection of public health is paramount, but says the purpose of the Global Travel Taskforce was to set out how to unlock low-risk travel safely.
The Back Heathrow campaign says if the government is serious about the sector, urgent action is needed to reopen flights to key trading partners, particularly the significant transatlantic route between Heathrow and the US.
Back Heathrow, the campaign representing the views of over 100,000 residents in boroughs around Heathrow airport, has welcomed the news that Heathrow Airport has become the first major UK airport to integrate Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) into its fuel distribution.
Parmjit Dhanda, Back Heathrow Executive Director said: “For the first time today sustainable aviation fuel made from renewable waste – like used cooking oil and animal fat will be incorporated into fuel for jet planes at a major British airport. This is a first for the UK and we hope other airports will follow Heathrow’s example and help lead the way to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
“This is great news for aviation communities because it shows clear progress on carbon reduction, and in the longer-term will also create new jobs in sustainable aviation fuels as commercial production is expanded. It’s an important day for a sector that has taken a battering during the Covid crisis.”
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The government must continue to reopen international travel to safe destinations, or areas around our airports will see a sharp increase in unemployment, says the Back Heathrow campaign, which represents over 100,000 people living close to Heathrow.
It says those from ethnic minority communities stand to be hardest hit by the struggles facing airlines and airports due to Covid 19, and face being left behind as the government focusses on levelling up in the north.
With the government announcing the UK’s green list for travel, whereby UK citizens can fly to only 12 destinations, including Australia, New Zealand and Portugal, Back Heathrow’s Parmjit Dhanda has called for urgent government action to prevent a jobs catastrophe for communities in and around Heathrow and other major airports.
Mr Dhanda said: “Last summer a report by Oxford Economics set out forecasts for the impact of reduced activity at Heathrow caused by the pandemic and stated that 62,000 jobs are vulnerable in west London alone.
“Statistically there is evidence that many airport workers are from minority communities, not just at Heathrow but at Luton, Birmingham and other airports. We believe this is a major contributing factor to new TUC research which states that unemployment amongst BAME communities has increased at three times the rate of others. Over 25,000 people from ethnic minority communities work at Heathrow and live close to the airport.”
Ahead of the summer holiday season, Back Heathrow want the Government to assign ‘green list’ status to more low risk countries, as their vaccination rates increase and infection rates get lower. The government should also invest in more Border Force staff to ensure people can pass through quicker and with appropriate social distancing measures in place.
The damage to the aviation sector and the knock-on effect on diverse communities serving many airports is leading to a jobs crisis amongst BAME communities. Yet they are not a part of the Prime Minister’s ‘levelling up’ agenda.
In conclusion Mr Dhanda added: “Our message to the government is that the UK aviation industry needs more support. Without it half a million jobs are at risk – with a large proportion of them from ethnic minority backgrounds. People working in airport communities need full backing from the government if ‘levelling up’ is to work for the whole country.”
In the Southall area alone over 5,000 BAME residents work at Heathrow airport, and Cranford and Heston, next to the airport, is home to over 6,000 BAME Heathrow workers.
Uxbridge residents who emailed their MP, Boris Johnson, about the critical situation of job losses at Heathrow have been left bemused and disappointed by his response.
Calling for financial support for the airport over its cripplingly high business rates bill of £116m, the highest in the UK, Uxbridge resident Ranjit Sihota said: “As someone with a family member who was made redundant from the airport, the response by the Prime Minister shows that he just doesn’t understand airport communities and what his own constituents are going through right now.”
In his emailed reply (see below) Mr Johnson refers to measures to help limit the impact of reduced airport activity due to Covid 19, however Mr Sihota added: “The amounts available are pitiful and will not prevent further job losses.”
According to a recent report by Oxford Economics, the collapse in air travel threatens over 60,000 local jobs.
In his reply the PM says: “Grants of up to £8m will be available to commercial airports in England and will be used to help with business rates in 2020-21. The money, which will also help ground handlers, will shore up jobs and reinforce local economies.”
However, Back Heathrow executive director, Parmjit Dhanda said although any kind of government support during the pandemic was welcome these measures ultimately failed the aviation industry – and Heathrow in particular.
“The business rates waiver scheme is capped for airports at £8m, but Heathrow has the largest single rates bill in Britain at £116m. These kinds of caps have not applied in other industries, and so are hitting communities like the PM’s constituency hardest.”
Mr Dhanda added: “ The massive pressure on airport jobs, with eight out of every ten flights cancelled, has left the community around Heathrow reeling. The budget has failed to live up to local and national expectations on aviation jobs.”
Uxbridge resident Oliwia Molinska, with family work connections to Heathrow, said: “The Prime Minister needs to realise that thousands of jobs in west London depend on Heathrow, including jobs in Uxbridge. We need a fair deal for local people. His response suggests he really doesn’t know what’s happening in his own patch.”
Prime Minister’s response
Thank you very much for contacting me about support for Heathrow Airport during the Covid-19 pandemic. I appreciate that this remains a very worrying time for Heathrow Airport staff and their families – many of whom live locally in Hillingdon.
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in greater uncertainty over future demand (at least in the short/medium term) in the aviation sector and that this continues to have a knock-on effect on the operational requirements of airlines and airports.
I want to be clear that the Government recognises the importance of the aviation sector to the UK economy, and the effect that the coronavirus pandemic is having on the industry. Going forward, the Government is keen to work with the aviation sector in finding a stable and sustainable recovery.
As you will know, we have already made available an unprecedented package of economic support for the sector to support them during the current crisis. This includes the Job Retention Scheme which has now been extended until April 2021, business rates relief and tax deferrals.
While the decision to close our travel corridors will help prevent the spread of new Covid variants in the UK, the Government recognise the impact this will have on the aviation sector. In order to help limit this impact, the Aviation Minister has recently announced the opening of the Airport and Ground Operations Support Scheme which will provide £100m to support airports in England, protecting jobs and giving airports the best chance of rebounding after coronavirus. Grants of up to £8m will be available to commercial airports in England and will be used to help with business rates in 2020-21.
The money, which will also help ground handlers, will shore up jobs and reinforce local economies. The Department of Transport has also established a Restart, Recovery and Engagement unit which is continuing to work alongside the aviation industry, including Heathrow Airport, on the immediate issues around restart as well as the sector’s longer-term growth and recovery.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Boris Johnson MP
Commenting ahead of the Budget statement, Parmjit Dhanda, Executive Director of Back Heathrow said the Chancellor must urgently address the lack of support for the UK’s aviation industry in order to prevent more job losses and further damage to supply chain infrastructure.
Back Heathrow – the campaign fighting to protect jobs and opportunities at Heathrow airport – says residents of west London know all too well how much their local communities rely on Heathrow and its supply chain for jobs and prosperity.
Mr Dhanda said: “Heathrow can spearhead an economic recovery, but it needs the government's help to make it happen. Things that government can do to help include extending the job retention scheme to protect aviation jobs.
“The business rate waiver for airports should also be extended to 100%. Currently Heathrow receives 7% relief on a bill of £120m – this fixed cost is crippling at a time when passenger and freight volume has collapsed.
“Finally, the restoration of VAT-free shopping for tourists would provide a welcome boost to revenues for all airports around the UK.”
Trade unions have teamed up with the campaign group Back Heathrow to urge the Prime Minister to help communities impacted by the crisis in aviation caused by the Covid 19 pandemic.
In a joint letter the trade unions GMB, USDAW, Community and Back Heathrow have asked the government for a business rate waiver for Heathrow airport – the country’s biggest payer of business rates – and its biggest single site employer.
Parmjit Dhanda, Executive Director of Back Heathrow said: “Airports in Scotland and Northern Ireland have received a 100% business rate waiver, as have other sectors of our economy. Airport communities in England are suffering badly due to lockdowns and reduction in flights.
“Despite losing over 80% of its flights, Heathrow’s business rates bill is still a massive £120m. The airport has only been given a 7% waiver. This is not sustainable and makes a bad situation worse for those depending on Heathrow and its supply chain for work. Airport communities in England need the same level of support as those in other parts of the UK. That’s why Back Heathrow and the trade unions have written to the Prime Minister.”
Under recent government measures, supermarkets were given 100% waivers to their business rates bills. The big supermarkets have handed back their waivers – so far worth £1.4bn. The trade unions and Back Heathrow say this should be used to help Heathrow survive.
In respect of the £1.4bn, the letter signed by leaders of three of the UK’s largest trade unions states: “Less than one-tenth of this waiver money would help Heathrow survive the present crisis, save countless local businesses, and thousands of jobs. We urge you to use this money as a lifeline for everyone who depends on Heathrow for their livelihoods and protect the future of our airport.” Download the letter here.
Unions have also urged the government to include a caveat that the funds will only be spent after a dialogue with unions to ensure jobs are protected at the airport and the wider aviation supply chain.
Back Heathrow speaks for 100,000 residents and businesses that depend on the airport for their livelihoods.
A recent report by Oxford Economics suggests that up to 62,000 local jobs could be at risk due to reduced activity at Heathrow airport. The Oxford Economics report is here.
Speaking after the Supreme Court judgement that ruled that Heathrow’s plan for a new runway is not illegal, Parmjit Dhanda, Executive Director of back Heathrow said: “This is an important moment for local communities who are desperate for jobs and apprenticeships at a very hard time for our economy.
“It is also a huge moment for the UK as it moves towards an uncertain Brexit, but now with the confidence that international trade will be boosted by additional capacity at the country’s only hub airport.
“Alongside our supporters in the CBI, TUC, and local communities, we see this as an opportunity to make progress, whilst also working to ensure the Paris carbon reduction targets are met as part of the planning application.
“This judgement reflects the alignment between the highest court in the land with a parliamentary majority of 296.”
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 now get on and build the new runway.
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.
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.
The Oxford Economics report into reduced activity at Heathrow is here
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.”