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.

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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.

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FOI requests show new levels of council spending to oppose Heathrow’s new runway

London boroughs and Transport for London have spent nearly £1m of taxpayers’ money challenging Heathrow’s expansion in the last 18 months alone.

In the period September 2018 to March 2020 the London Boroughs of Hillingdon, Windsor and Maidenhead, Hammersmith and Fulham and Transport for London spent £944,603 on legal fees, publicity and the direct funding of anti-expansion campaign groups.

Boris Johnson’s home borough of Hillingdon spent £159,626.50 on legal fees, £528.65 on publicity and funded anti expansion campaign groups such as Stop Heathrow Expansion and the No 3rd Runway group to the tune of £52,000 and £134,696.50 respectively.

Elsewhere, Transport for London spent £452,336 on legal fees; the Royal borough of Windsor and Maidenhead spent £110,417.71 on legal fees; and Hammersmith and Fulham spent £35,000 on legal fees.The London boroughs of Richmond and Wandsworth have not provided information to the FOI request.

In total, 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 are talking up a ‘build, build, build’ agenda, the reality on the ground is different. Lawyers have gotten rich taking up councils’ ‘block, block, block’ agenda. It would be sensible if they engaged constructively with the project to ensure we build the cleanest and greenest runway in the world.”

Warren Kenny, GMB union’s London regional secretary said: “The issue of developing more capacity at Heathrow has been round the block of enquires, reports and votes in Parliament for so long that no one can remember all the stages in this exhaustive process to give the go ahead to this necessary development.

“After Parliament finally gave the green light it is extremely disappointing to discover the extent to which local councillors gave the go ahead to spend shed loads of taxpayers’ money to further extend and prolong the process. This is a serious waste of public money on what to the public is time-wasting infighting between different parts of the public sector. 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.”

Local resident Angela Nelson-Iye from Hayes said: “Spending this amount of taxpayers’ money on opposing Heathrow expansion seems daft when councils could be focusing their efforts on supporting local public services.” (Photo of Angela Nelson-Iye is attached).

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. Expensive legal challenges will jeopardise 180,000 new jobs and 10,000 apprenticeships – just at the time when they are needed most.”

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

Cannot complete the request.

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Back Heathrow's response to the Chancellor's mini-budget

Parmjit Dhanda, Executive Director of Back Heathrow said: “For months we've heard warm words from the government about a rescue package for the aviation industry. Yet, there was not one mention of it from the Chancellor in his statement. 

“A sector that employs over 1 million people and has the capacity to help lift the UK out of this economic crisis has been left on its knees, to fend for itself. The Prime Minister's indifference towards Heathrow, airlines, the aviation industry and his own constituent's jobs in Hillingdon is astonishing. For the sake of his constituents and the UK's economy he needs to put this right, quickly.

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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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