The scale and secrecy of Tory-controlled Hillingdon council’s £621,000 expenditure on the legal challenge to Heathrow Airport’s expansion should raise serious questions, Unite the union has said.

Unite, which is supporting the airport’s new runway, said that questions should centre on whether the scale of the spending truly reflected the best interests of the borough’s 300,000 residents.

The union said that the council’s financial largesse had to be ‘squeezed out’ by the campaign group Back Heathrow via a Freedom of Information (FoI) request.

According to the council’s FoI response, it has spent £621,310 on campaigning against Heathrow’s expansion since August 2016. The borough has also received £180,321 of contributions from other boroughs during this period – leaving a net spend of £440,989. 

Unite’s London regional secretary Pete Kavanagh said: “We question whether the sum of £621,310 allocated by Hillingdon council to fight the expansion of the airport is the best use of council taxpayers’ money, given that thousands of future jobs depend on the airport’s growth.

“With councils under the financial cosh because of the Tory government’s harsh austerity measures, we believe that the £621,000 could have been better spent on local services, such as social care for the elderly.

“The procrastination and secrecy by the council - with the information having to be squeezed out by an FOI request - is not the way that a democratically-elected authority should behave.

“Unite is the biggest union at Heathrow representing over 34,000 workers and many of our members live in Hillingdon – they won’t take kindly to the council undermining the jobs bonanza that expansion is set to bring.”

The new runway is forecast to create 77,000 new local jobs, and recent independent polling by Populus suggests most Hillingdon residents back the project.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on: 020 3371 2065

  • Unite represents workers in Britain and Ireland with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.