Air­ports say 20,000 jobs at risk un­less rates re­laxed

Op­er­a­tors as­so­ci­a­tion warns fail­ure of min­is­ters to re­duce busi­ness rates has cost in­dus­try £70m

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Front Page - By

Charles Hy­mas

Home Af­fAirs editor AIR­PORTS are set to axe up to 20,000 jobs un­less the Gov­ern­ment in­ter­venes by waiv­ing busi­ness rates to help them cope with the Covid-19 cri­sis, min­is­ters have been warned.

The Air­ports Op­er­a­tors As­so­ci­a­tion (AOA) today an­nounces its ap­peal for ur­gent busi­ness rates re­lief to bring the in­dus­try in line with the hospitalit­y, leisure and re­tail sec­tors and other na­tions that have ben­e­fited from such sup­port. It says the fail­ure of the Gov­ern­ment to pro­vide busi­ness rates re­lief has made the fi­nan­cial chal­lenge faced by air­ports sig­nif­i­cantly worse af­ter a near-col­lapse in pas­sen­ger num­bers since March.

It is seek­ing a year’s re­lief from busi­ness rates for all air­ports in Eng­land and Wales af­ter in­de­pen­dent fore­casts that it will take up to four years for pas­sen­ger num­bers to re­turn to pre-Covid lev­els de­spite the Gov­ern­ment’s eas­ing of quar­an­tine with “air bridges”.

The AOA says air­ports in Eng­land have paid more than £70m in busi­ness rates since the start of lock­down in March de­spite pas­sen­ger num­bers be­ing down by around 97pc. The an­nual cost of busi­ness rates for air­ports in Eng­land is more than £210m.

By con­trast, air­ports in Scot­land have been given 100pc rates re­lief for a year by the Scot­tish gov­ern­ment, while those in North­ern Ire­land have been granted the same re­lief un­til March next year. A sur­vey of air­ports found that they were an­tic­i­pat­ing up to 20,000 job losses with a fur­ther 90,000 jobs un­der threat in as­so­ci­ated busi­nesses and com­mu­ni­ties.

Karen Dee, AOA’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, told “Our in­dus­try is on its knees and the Gov­ern­ment needs to do much more to sup­port air­ports in re­cov­er­ing from Covid-19.

“Whilst many busi­nesses have ben­e­fited from busi­ness rates re­lief, air­ports in Eng­land and Wales have been for­got­ten and this is con­strain­ing their abil­ity to sur­vive through con­tin­ued re­stric­tions im­posed on their oper­a­tions and to help power the eco­nomic re­cov­ery of the coun­try.

“That our air­ports have been pay­ing £500,000 in busi­ness rates ev­ery day dur­ing the lock­down re­flects that the Gov­ern­ment sim­ply has not grasped the sever­ity of the chal­lenge and threat that the pan­demic has posed and con­tin­ues to pose to our sec­tor.

“We have con­sis­tently called for the Gov­ern­ment to act with ur­gency and sup­port air­ports through the big­gest chal­lenge that they have ever faced.

“A 12-month busi­ness re­lief pro­gramme, sim­i­lar to that ex­tended to the hospitalit­y and re­tail sec­tors, will pro­vide es­sen­tial sup­port for our be­lea­guered air­ports and al­low them to play their much-needed role in restart­ing our econ­omy and to get Bri­tain fly­ing again.”

An in­quiry by the trans­port com­mit­tee fore­cast that the UK avi­a­tion in­dus­try alone was fac­ing a po­ten­tial loss of more than £20bn in 2020. It found other coun­tries had brought in more gen­er­ous schemes in­clud­ing £54bn in aid from the US gov­ern­ment, with other EU gov­ern­ments ear­mark­ing at least £24bn as of late May. The cross­party com­mit­tee rec­om­mended the Gov­ern­ment and the de­volved ad­min­is­tra­tions in­tro­duce a 12-month busi­ness rates re­lief for air­lines and air­ports and a six-month tem­po­rary sus­pen­sion of air pas­sen­ger duty pay­ments.

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