Big noise over legal bill
BACK HEATHROW CAMPAIGNERS SAY TAX PAYERS’ CASH IS BEING WASTED
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
A CGI Image of how the third runway could look