Big noise over le­gal bill

BACK HEATHROW CAM­PAIGN­ERS SAY TAX PAY­ERS’ CASH IS BE­ING WASTED

Harefield Gazette - - NEWS - QASIM PERACHA qasim.peracha@trin­i­tymir­ror.com Twit­ter: @qasim­per­acha

HILLING­DON Coun­cil faces crit­i­cism af­ter it was re­vealed that the bor­ough spent £215,000 in 12 months fight­ing the ex­pan­sion of its big­gest em­ployer.

A Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion re­quest by pro-Heathrow ex­pan­sion cam­paign­ers Back Heathrow showed that the coun­cil racked up bills of £215,000 fight­ing le­gal bat­tles against the third run­way be­tween Au­gust 2016 and Au­gust 2017.

Back Heathrow pointed out that the same fig­ure had been con­tro­ver­sially cut from the bor­ough’s chil­dren’s ser­vices bud­get over the same 12-month pe­riod.

The Gazette re­ported in Jan­uary that the coun­cil had car­ried out a £215,000 re­view into chil­dren’s ser­vices, which cul­mi­nated in a threat to close the Cherry Lane Chil­dren’s Cen­tre in West Dray­ton and the Hill­side Pri­mary School Chil­dren’s Cen­tre in North­wood.

Speak­ing at the time, Ma­rina Schem­bri, who uses the Cherry Lane cen­tre, Said: “The big ques­tion is where is the money taken from our chil­dren be­ing redi­rected.”

How­ever Ray Pud­di­foot, the leader of Hilling­don Coun­cil, high­lighted that the vast ma­jor­ity of the money had come from the coun­cil’s part­ners, with the tax­payer only foot­ing £73,215 in le­gal bills.

“If Back Heathrow is go­ing to crit­i­cise us for stick­ing up for our res­i­dents, they should at least get their fig­ures right,” he said.

“At a re­cent coun­cil meet­ing I chal­lenged the Back Heathrow cam­paign to deny that spend­ing more than £2mil­lion pounds to get the sup­port of 100,000 peo­ple across a large area of the south of Eng­land was pa­thetic and in­dica­tive of the weak­ness of their pro­posal. “Their si­lence says it all. “We make no apolo­gies for pro­vid­ing the sup­port nec­es­sary to de­fend Hilling­don and rep­re­sent our res­i­dents, and we will con­tinue to do so for how­ever long it takes.

“Heathrow ex­pan­sion is a flawed project that will never get off the ground.”

Mean­while Back Heathrow high­lighted the find­ings of a pre­vi­ous Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion re­quest which re­vealed that the coun­cil spent £602,860 on anti-Heathrow lob­by­ing be­tween Jan­uary 2007 and De­cem­ber 2014.

Back Heathrow ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Par­mjit Dhanda said: “Lo­cal tax­pay­ers will be fu­ri­ous that their money is be­ing squan­dered on ex­pen­sive lawyers to chal­lenge a gov­ern­ment de­ci­sion that will cre­ate 77,000 new lo­cal jobs and 5,000 ap­pren­tice­ships.

“These coun­cils should be fo­cused on pro­tect­ing lo­cal ser­vices in­stead of wast­ing tax­pay­ers’ money op­pos­ing job cre­ation at Heathrow.”

Over the same time pe­riod, the Royal Bor­ough of Wind­sor & Maiden­head Coun­cil and Rich­mond Coun­cil spent £56,452.13 on the le­gal fight. much-needed

IM­AGE: HEATHROW AIR­PORT

A CGI Im­age of how the third run­way could look

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