‘Se­ri­ous ques­tions’ over anti-Heathrow spend­ing

Hilling­don coun­cil leader hits back at ‘des­per­ate’ crit­i­cism

Harefield Gazette - - NEWS -

The bor­ough, which is openly against any ex­pan­sion of the air­port, has spent the money over the last five years by fund­ing protest groups and or­gan­is­ing a bor­ough ref­er­en­dum on the plans.

The fig­ures were ob­tained un­der the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act by the pro-ex­pan­sion group Back Heathrow.

They show that be­tween Fe­bru­ary 2010 and Septem­ber 2014 the coun­cil spent: £134,285 on the anti-Heathrow 2M Group, £53,000 to the No Third Run­way Ac­tion Group (NOTRAG), £6,000 the Stop Heathrow Ex­pan­sion (SHE) group, £123,000 on a Hilling­don ‘ref­er­en­dum’, and £4,000 pub­li­cis­ing the Hilling­don ‘ref­er­en­dum’.

Rob Gray, a Proex­pan­sion cam­paigner, said: “Hilling­don Coun­cil has se­ri­ous ques­tions to an­swer about fund­ing anti-Heathrow groups with tax­pay­ers’ money. Thou­sands of lo­cal fam­i­lies who rely on Heathrow will rightly feel that their own coun­cil is stick­ing two fin­gers up at them, rather than stand­ing up for their best in­ter­ests.”

Hilling­don Coun­cil leader Ray Pud­di­foot hit back call­ing the crit­i­cism “the last act of a des­per­ate man”.

The Tory coun­cil­lor added: “Heathrow’s for­eign own­ers have spent mil­lions of pounds over the last two years on a pub­lic­ity cam­paign that has re­sulted in just 80,000 peo­ple from huge ar­eas in the west of Lon­don and be­yond sup­port­ing ex­pan­sion.

“On one day alone in 2013 over 100,000 in two bor­oughs (Hilling­don and Rich­mond) voted against ex­pan­sion in a prop­erly con­ducted ref­er­en­dum. If I rep­re­sented the own­ers of Heathrow I would be ask­ing for my money back.

“As re­gards ex­pen­di­ture by Hilling­don Coun­cil, we have only spent a frac­tion of the fund­ing that we have set aside to fight ex­pan­sion at Heathrow.

“We made our po­si­tion clear at last year’s lo­cal elec­tions and were over­whelm­ingly sup­ported.”

Cllr Pud­di­foot chal­lenged Back Heathrow and Heathrow Air­port Limited to pub­lish de­tails of all ex­pen­di­ture on their cam­paigns and “let the peo­ple judge which has proved to be bet­ter value”.

He added: “I do ap­pre­ci­ate that they rep­re­sent for­eign in­vestors and they can use their money as they like, but we rep­re­sent the peo­ple and are en­ti­tled to do the same.”

Back Heathrow said its first set of ac­counts would be filed in the com­ing weeks, mak­ing them pub­licly avail­able.

In a state­ment, the group added: “We have not spent a sin­gle penny of tax­pay­ers’ money and our fund­ing has only come from peo­ple and or­gan­i­sa­tions that share our aims.”

An Air­ports Com­mis­sion has been tasked with de­cid­ing whether to ex­pand Heathrow Air­port or Gatwick Air­port to in­crease flight ca­pac­ity in south-east Eng­land.

The two ex­pan­sion op­tions for Heathrow Air­port are build­ing a third run­way and – in what is known as the Heathrow Hub plan – ex­tend­ing an ex­ist­ing one. The com­mis­sion is ex­pected to make its rec­om­men­da­tion in June.

Back Heathrow claims a ma­jor­ity of Hilling­don res­i­dents are in favour of ex­pand­ing the air­port, say­ing this would cre­ate up to 180,000 jobs.

THE FOI fig­ures do not in­clude money spent by Hilling­don Coun­cil on its Say No To Heathrow Ex­pan­sion cam­paign.

In May 2013, in re­sponse to a sep­a­rate free­dom of in­for­ma­tion re­quest from a mem­ber of the public, the coun­cil said its “re­cent ex­pen­di­ture” on this cam­paign was £11,177.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.