Airports say 20,000 jobs at risk unless rates relaxed
Operators association warns failure of ministers to reduce business rates has cost industry £70m
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.