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.
A new survey of Hounslow residents should make councillors and local MPs sit up and listen. The survey figures show a further significant shift in local opinion in favour of Heathrow’s new runway.
The survey report will be ratified by Hounslow council next week. It shows that 59% of residents overall now support the third runway – up from 44% in 2016, with only 22% opposing it.
Local communities around Heathrow are clearer than ever before that the new runway has their overwhelming support.
Back Heathrow Executive Director Parmjit Dhanda said: “It is welcome news and shows the tide has turned in favour of airport expansion. This sends a very clear message to the council to get fully behind the wishes of residents and help make expansion happen so Hounslow can reap the benefits the new runway will bring, with thousands of new jobs, apprenticeships for its young people and much needed investment in the local economy.”
The report says: “Support of the proposal to build a third runway at Heathrow Airport has increased significantly since 2016 with close to three fifths of residents supporting it.”
Across the borough from Bedfont, Feltham and Hanworth, to Isleworth and Brentford support is over 50%. In Bedfont, Feltham and Hanworth, support is highest and opposition is lowest at 67% and 12% respectively. In Chiswick, support outstrips opposition by 47% to 28% respectively.
Mr Dhanda added: “The figures are very stark. This report shows roughly three fifths of Hounslow residents are now in favour, and only one fifth against expansion.”
Back Heathrow campaigners today delivered a defiant message to Hillingdon councillors – the local community supports the building of a new runway at Heathrow airport and the council should back the project rather than spend scarce taxpayers’ money opposing it.
They delivered over 1,500 signed campaign cards to the Civic Centre on Thursday morning spanning Hillingdon’s 22 wards. The campaign cards declare support for a new runway and urge councillors to end the spending of taxpayers’ money to oppose the project, which is set to create 180,000 unionised jobs.
The council has spent over £1m opposing expansion over the last decade and has recently committed another £413,000 of taxpayers’ money. The council is also consulting on the first council tax hike in a decade.
Back Heathrow local campaigner Rose-Marie Welsh from Ickenham said: “I really think it’s time our council started listening to us. I know many people who share my view and who would like to see Heathrow grow. We may be a silent majority, but its time our voice was heard and acknowledged by local councillors." (Rose-Marie is 6th from the right in the photograph, hand on banner).
Amit Gupta, an accountant from Botwell in Hayes said: "My local councillors need to understand that there is more than one view on this issue. We feel let down and ignored. Hayes needs jobs." (Amit is far left in the photograph).
Commenting on the pre-trial hearing on January 15, following legal challenges to Heathrow expansion by Friends of the Earth and other applicants (including the Mayor of London) at the High Court, Back Heathrow executive director, Parmjit Dhanda said:
“Climate change is one of the most pressing issues that faces us in the UK and wider world. However, it is a problem that should be shared by all and to argue that scrapping expansion would solve climate change is wrong.
“The enemy is not aircraft but carbon. The reality is that you can’t uninvent aircraft or the aviation industry, the trick is to target the real culprit – carbon emissions.
“Heathrow’s commitment to become carbon neutral, the wider progress made on UK carbon targets and the economic benefits of a new runway has the support of over 100,000 people in the local community.
“The best way forward is to help build a sustainable airport that plays its part in tackling climate change while delivering jobs, skills and investment.”
The Back Heathrow campaign which represents over 100,000 residents that back Heathrow expansion has welcomed the launch of an eight-week public consultation by Heathrow Airport on its plans for future airspace and operations.
Back Heathrow has called on local communities to get engaged to help shape the airport’s expansion plans. The public consultation begins on January 8 and ends on March 4.
Back Heathrow executive director, Parmjit Dhanda said: “This is a landmark day for the airport and its expansion plans. Independent polling shows that the scheme has very strong support amongst local residents, but it is crucial that they are involved in shaping these plans.”
“Whether people support or oppose the project we want to see everyone engaged in this consultation in order to ensure commitments made to minimise noise and provide longer respite from flights at night are adhered to. We sense a real desire to get on with this in the local community, but also a desire to ensure it is done well.”
Heathrow expansion is one of the UK’s biggest ever infrastructure projects and will deliver 10,000 apprenticeships, an economic boost of £187bn to the UK economy and 180,000 new jobs. Back Heathrow wants local communities to be at the front of the queue when the economic benefits are realised.
Dhanda added: “Heathrow airspace has not been modernised since 1950 and there has been no new runways built in London or the south east of England since World War 2. Heathrow is our only hub airport and it is time to make it fit for the 21st century.”
The Back Heathrow campaign has today (Tuesday) welcomed the announcement by Heathrow Airport Limited of its plan for neutral carbon growth once the airport’s third runway is built.
Back Heathrow executive director Parmjit Dhanda said: “The parliamentary vote in June on the National Policy Statement on airports was very clear that the third runway could only happen if measures to counter air quality issues were addressed.
“This will include plans to reduce aircraft taxi times and develop new methods of carbon offsetting, for example by pledging to invest in UK peatland restoration. The airport also will review its policy for charging electric aircraft.”
HAL says it will offer free landing fees for a year at the airport for its first commercially viable electric flights and will continue offering cheaper landing fees for cleaner and quieter aircraft. The details of these and other measures will be developed through consultation with local communities and will be legally binding through the development consent process which begins in earnest in 2019.
Dhanda said the Back Heathrow campaign agreed with the House of Commons Transport Select committee which said that the economic benefits of the project were compelling. “The third runway development will bring thousands of new jobs to the local and wider UK economy and provide 10,000 apprenticeships. What is exciting is that this massive infrastructure project can be delivered at the same time as mitigating environmental concerns.”
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."