Are Directors of Luton Rising up to the Task? 

One of the major issues with Luton Rising (LR) is, we suspect, the quality of its Councillor Directors.   Both they, and their predecessors over the last eight years, have helped turn a highly successful zero-risk company into a basket case with £517m of debts due to bad decisions regarding airport expansion.  Luton Borough Council (LBC), has always stated that this outlay has not impacted services in the town, yet Luton Rising has announced it can’t now pay a dividend to the Council for many years to come – money the Council relied on.

A full list of Luton Rising staff can be found on the LR web site together with a list of the voting Directors appointed by LBC. All of these voting Directors are politically appointed, and not one of them has a history in aviation apart from one, who works at a travel agency :

  • Councillor Javeria Hussain (Chair)
  • Councillor Amy Nicholls (Vice Chair)
  • Councillor Andrew Malcolm
  • Councillor Waheed Akbar
  • Councillor Khtija Malik
  • Councillor Tahmina Saleem
  • Councillor John Young
  • Dr Romano Pagliari (Advisory Member)
  • Mr Roy Davis (Advisory Member)

Let’s look at the background of each Director :

Councillor Javeria Hussain (Chair). We would expect the Chair of the airport to know something about airports apart from being a passenger but no; she works in the legal sector at a solicitors’ office.  What exactly her role is in the company, we really don’t know as she doesn’t say?   She has declared financial links to the Co-Operative Party, Unite, the Labour Party and the GMB.

Councillor Amy Nicholls (Vice Chair). Amy works in the pharmacy at ASDA, which must be handy for handing out headache tablets at secret committee meetings, as it all goes horribly wrong.  She also has a casual job down a local pub, which is helpful for drowning her sorrows when reading the latest Luton Rising accounts. She also has stated she has financial links to the Labour Party.

Councillor Andrew Malcolm.  Andy is a lecturer in Social Studies at the University of Bedfordshire, and is on the management committee for a Centre for Education so again no benefits in that background for being an airport Director.  We believe Andy has of course been a key player in the downward spiral of LR, from when he became Chair of LLAL (the alter ego of LR) in 2015 when this madness of debt began.  It is also worth noting that over that same time, he has been Finance Portfolio holder at LBC.  These facts cast a very large shadow over what exactly his priorities were: financing an airport that should have been financed by its concessionaire, or delivering that money to the residents of Luton?

Councillor Waheed Akbar. Waheed works for Hertfordshire County Council, who strongly oppose airport expansion. Best not speak to the boss about your evening job, Waheed.

Councillor Khtija Malik.  Khtija works at a travel agency, but we wonder if that ticks all the boxes for being a Director of Luton Rising?   At least she has a connection with aviation though, but as Luton is used by low-cost airlines – has she ever booked a ticket through Luton?

Councillor Tahmina Saleem.   Tahmina hasn’t declared a single thing on her declaration form so doesn’t appear to have a job.

Councillor John Young.  John is the only Conservative member of the board of Directors, the rest being Labour councillors.  He also hasn’t declared a job but we suspect he is retired.

We don’t dispute that being a Councillor means long hours with little thanks but we do have to question how the airport finds itself in a position of needing a £119m council bailout, due in part to uncontrolled debts where questions should have been asked by Directors (who we know are out of touch with reality) before embarking on financial suicide.

Here’s what a Director should do:

Carry Out Independent Judgement

A company Director must use independent judgement, bearing the responsibility and accountability of making independent decisions.

Consistently Exercise Reasonable Skill, Care, and Diligence

A company Director is expected to observe the same skill, care, and diligence to the same standards as any other reasonably diligent employee with:

  • the general knowledge, skill, and experience that may reasonably be expected of a person carrying out the same functions in relation to the company.
  • the general knowledge, skill and experience that possessed by the company Director.

Note: A Director’s actual understanding and abilities may not be enough if more could reasonably be expected of someone in his or her position, therefore a sense of recognising and adapting to the reality of individual knowledge base is key.

We suspect that looking at the background of the Directors and no doubt previous Directors that competency has always been in doubt, as was independent judgement.

What can clearly be seen however, is the fact that under the watch of the Labour majority in Luton, valuable income that could have made a direct and lasting impact on the quality of life for many of the struggling families of Luton, has been frittered away, in the vain hope that it could be recouped from the next airport concession in ten years’ time.

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