‘Serious questions’ over anti-Heathrow spending
Hillingdon council leader hits back at ‘desperate’ criticism
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.