Government’s infrastructure plans a missed opportunity for aviation

The Prime Minister’s plans for what he describes as shovel-ready infrastructure sound dynamic enough. However, if he is serious about it then he must get Heathrow expansion back on track – and quickly, says one of Britain’s biggest unions, GMB and the Back Heathrow campaign.

Expansion will generate 180,000 jobs across the UK and 10,000 apprenticeships, underpinned by recognition agreements with trade unions to protect the quality of these roles. 

Expansion can be delivered with sustainability at its heart – setting new world-leading targets for an airport on air quality, noise and carbon reduction, at a time when pressure on the aviation industry is damaging the UK economy.

Warren Kenny, GMB’s London regional secretary said: “GMB welcomes genuine investment in public infrastructure, but the PM’s announcement today is an extraordinary body swerve on the crisis in aviation. To give real confidence to an industry that has been bashed due to his weak response to the economic crisis, he should have shown proper leadership and done a U-turn on Heathrow’s expansion. This will create 180,000 jobs, 10,000 apprenticeships, and restore long-term confidence for a sector that’s on its knees.”

Parmjit Dhanda, Executive Director of Back Heathrow said: “If confidence and growth is to return to the economy and if the government is serious about a global Britain, then Heathrow must be at the heart of those plans. This announcement has failed to recognise the importance of global trade in our nation’s economic recovery.

“By giving a commitment to build a new runway, alongside new regulations on air quality and decarbonisation, he could have set a better path for new jobs and sustainable economic growth. He failed to do it.”

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Boris Johnson warned 25,000 west Londoners could lose their jobs: “Crude and clumsy” 14-day quarantine rule must be scrapped before it’s too late

Parmjit Dhanda, Executive Director of Back Heathrow, a community group supporting the expansion of Heathrow Airport, has warned Boris Johnson that government measures to impose a 14-day quarantine on air passengers arriving in the UK risks a jobs meltdown for local people, including many living in the Prime Minister’s own constituency.

Mr Dhanda said: “Up to 25,000 local people working at Heathrow are facing redundancy. The airport and airlines operating here have been hit hard by the Covid crisis, but the government is making things even worse through its crude and clumsy 14-day quarantine plan.”

Calling on Boris Johnson and Home Secretary, Priti Patel, to scrap the ill-thought through quarantine plans and take a smarter, targeted approach Mr Dhanda said: “The government must move quickly to reopen aviation, for unless imminent steps are taken, such as opening airbridges to low risk countries, west London could collapse into an economic wasteland.

“The boss of Heathrow Airport has said loud and clear that he’s had to cut a third of the operating costs and a third of the airport’s management costs, and now I’m told front line staff are in the firing line. I can’t believe the Prime Minister is prepared to sit idly by while family after family in his own backyard face losing the jobs of their main bread-winner.”

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Heathrow’s contribution to councils and government is highest in the country

The importance of Heathrow airport to the local and national economy should not be underestimated says community campaign, Back Heathrow.

Last year the airport was comfortably Britain’s biggest payer of business rates, according to the Altus Group - paying a bill of £118m, which goes to local councils and central government, and ultimately funds public services.

Heathrow’s contribution to the public purse dwarfs the others in the top ten business rate-payer list, with Gatwick airport the second highest payer on £30.4m and Sellafield nuclear power station contributing £24m.

Other sites that depend on Heathrow’s existence also made the top 50. British Airways’ Terminal 5 building; BA’s world cargo terminal and the airline’s engineering base paid business rates of £13.8 million, £22.4 million and £13.1 million respectively.

Back Heathrow Executive Director, Parmjit Dhanda said: “These figures are quite staggering. Heathrow is not just Britain’s front door to trade. It also supports local and central government to the tune of over £118 million in business rates, which in turn funds our public services. We all depend on this airport’s success for our public services.”

West London has upwards of 150,000 jobs that depend on Heathrow airport. They contribute over £6bn to the economy, but due to government’s lack of support for aviation, many of these jobs are in peril. Thousands of jobs have already been slashed by airlines and related industries around the country. West London is particularly vulnerable because it is home to Heathrow, one of the country’s biggest generators of jobs. But the whole country is affected by a downturn at Heathrow, which will result in a decline in the tax take.

Mr Dhanda added: “The government needs to realise it is not just tourism, leisure and trade that is threatened by their lack of a plan to support the aviation sector. The business rates alone from Heathrow provides government with over £100m annually towards local and national public services. It’s time for government to show that it cares about Heathrow.”

Before Covid-19 brought the economy to a standstill, Heathrow was Britain’s biggest port by value. Back Heathrow would like to see the government urgently produce:

  • Consistent regulations for Coronavirus testing at all UK airports, as part of consistent global standards to restore public confidence
  • A plan to protect airlines from collapse
  • A long-term plan for UK aviation.

 

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Political inaction on aviation will lead to higher levels of joblessness in areas like west London and the Thames Valley

Political inaction on aviation during the Covid-19 crisis will lead to higher levels of joblessness in areas like west London and the Thames Valley, where Heathrow airport supports upwards of 150,000 jobs, says Back Heathrow today.

Furthermore, other towns, cities and regions with airports could see them left with mass unemployment too, for years to come.

Parmjit Dhanda, Executive Director of Back Heathrow warns that the government is running out of time to formulate a plan for aviation to save communities in west London from a generation of long-term unemployment.

Mr Dhanda said: “West London has upwards of 150,000 jobs that depend on Heathrow airport. They contribute over £6bn to the economy, but due to government’s inaction their jobs are in greater peril. We have already seen thousands of jobs slashed by airlines and related industries around the country. West London is particularly vulnerable because it is home to Heathrow, one of the country’s biggest generators of jobs.

“However, the government has no plan to restore confidence in aviation through nationally adopted health tests for Coronavirus at airports. Heathrow has taken its own initiative to introduce thermal imaging tests, in the absence of government action. The government has no plan to save jobs when airlines and airports are reeling, causing immense strain on the wider supply chain. It needs to act or west London, the Thames Valley and other areas dependent on airport jobs will become employment waste grounds.”

Back Heathrow’s call for action comes in a week when British Airways has said it will axe 12,000 jobs and Virgin Airlines a further 3,000. Regional airports across the UK are suffering. Some, like Newquay and Teesside, have shut to all but the emergency services, whilst others have reduced hours of operation and severely curtailed flights. Glasgow Airport has even repurposed its long-stay car park to host a drive-through mobile Coronavirus testing centre.

It’s not just airlines and the airports that are suffering. Thousands of local businesses that rely upon them for work are hurting too – caterers, taxi drivers, cargo handlers, transport and construction workers, energy suppliers, security staff, cleaners and many others.

Back Heathrow would like to see the government urgently produce:

  • Consistent regulations for Coronavirus testing at all UK airports, as part of consistent global standards to restore public confidence
  • A plan to protect airlines from collapse
  • A long-term plan for UK aviation.
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Ealing petition for free vote on Heathrow exceeds 2,000

A local petition, urging Ealing Council to hold a ‘free vote’ on whether the borough will back Heathrow expansion has reached over 2,000 signatories.

But the campaign has decided not to present the petition to full council in April so Ealing’s officers and councillors can focus on the crucial task of fighting Covid 19.

The petition, backed by local groups including the Indian Workers’ Association and trade unions Unite and GMB was due to be presented to the April meeting of the council.

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IT’S TIME TO GET HEATHROW DONE SAYS EXPANSION CAMPAIGN

Reacting to today’s Budget, Back Heathrow Executive Director, Parmjit Dhanda said: “The Chancellor delivered his budget to Parliament today and talked about the need for economic growth.

“But if he is to deliver on his plan to control public borrowing and deliver economic growth, he needs to get on and build the new runway at Heathrow airport.”

“Plans for a new runway have been kicking around in Parliament for 17 years now. If the Chancellor is serious about delivering jobs and economic growth, it’s high time he coined his own phrase to finally 'Get Heathrow Done'.

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THE CAMPAIGN FOR HEATHROW EXPANSION IS NOT OVER SAYS BACK HEATHROW

Back Heathrow, the 100,000 strong community campaign that supports a new runway for Heathrow says the Court of Appeal ruling that expansion was unlawful because it did not take climate commitments into account was hugely disappointing to local communities.

Local polling by Populus has shown that for many years in 16 of 18 constituencies around the airport more people support than oppose expansion.

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New industry and government targets boost Heathrow expansion

Back Heathrow has welcomed an announcement by the Sustainable Aviation Coalition which commits airports and airlines to cut carbon emissions to net zero by 2050.

Back Heathrow also welcomed government’s decision to bring forward the phasing out of petrol, diesel and hybrid vehicles to 2035.

Parmjit Dhanda, executive director of Back Heathrow said: “We know that vehicle traffic emissions are a major contributor to pollution in London, way more so than aviation, so this is welcome news.

“The announcement by airlines and airports, including Heathrow to cut emissions to net zero by 2050 is a huge step forward too. We know more West Londoners support than oppose Heathrow expansion because of new jobs and an economic boost.

“These two announcements will help to ensure a new runway is built whilst tackling noise, improving air quality and reducing carbon emissions.”

The coalition’s announcement is an important step forward for the expansion project. It shows that with smarter airport operations, modernised airspace, new cleaner, efficient aircraft and sustainable fuels, we can have airport development – and meet the strict targets on emissions set by government and international regulators.

The airport’s plans to further offset carbon emissions through investment in peatland restoration and tree planting schemes are also an important part of its decarbonisation roadmap.

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All main parties participate in Back Heathrow Hounslow hustings

Lively debate was the order of the evening at a packed general election hustings event in Hounslow organised by Back Heathrow, the campaign that represents over 100,000 supporters of a new runway.

The main subject for the event was the proposed new runway at Heathrow airport. Discussion throughout the evening was robust and respectful across the party divides. The candidates were left in no doubt of the importance of jobs, the economy and the environment to the audience.

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Over 600 requests to back Heathrow expansion sent to Brent Labour candidates

Over 600 Back Heathrow campaign postcards from constituents have been sent to Brent Labour General Election candidates Dawn Butler and Barry Gardiner. The campaign card urges them both to back a new runway at Heathrow airport. 

The postcard says hub airports like Heathrow are a force for good and are part of the solution to tackling carbon – through cleaner and quieter aircraft and targets for carbon reduction enshrined in law.

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