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
£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.