Luton Borough Council puts considerable emphasis on job creation with an expanded airport, yet it fails to address any potential jobs that could be created elsewhere if alternatives to terminal two were to go ahead. At the 2004 MK & S Midlands Sub-Regional Strategy planning Inquiry, a panel of inspectors told Luton “NOT to put all their eggs in the airport basket”.
Yet LBC policy has caused the airport to expand too rapidly.
LBC owns London Luton Airport Limited (LLAL), staffed by councillors and council officers. (More correctly, the people of Luton own the airport, yet have virtually no say in its management or future plans.)
What many people don’t know is that LLAL recently bought farmland between Wigmore Valley Park and the Hertfordshire border, known as Century Park Fields. This land is a similar size to Wigmore Valley Park, and has had outline planning permission for over 20 years to build a business park. The planning application at the time claimed that this park would create thousands of new jobs. But instead of creating these jobs, the council wants to turn this field into a long-term car park for the airport (according to its own consultation).
Jobs connected to this business park would have been full time – and the nature of the business park suggested that they would be jobs with good salaries. But the council has said no. In Feb 2017 it proposed to build 20 office blocks, mainly on Wigmore Park. In 2018 this was reduced to 10 office blocks, showing plans were entirely speculative. Now it is a mere handful. Meanwhile 17 buildings on the airport complex, some quite modern, are either vacant or are earmarked for closure as they lay on the route for a dual carriageway that will serve a second terminal. The airport has an abundance of derelict land that is ideal for regeneration but the council and LLAL are not interested in using this land but prefer to use one of Luton’s best loved parks which contains a county wildlife site.
LLAL and the council claim that the average wage at the airport is £36,000 but has provided no evidence who these people are and whether those working in a second terminal and those providing services for airlines and passengers using a second terminal will receive anything like this income.
Anyone applying for a job today will find most of the vacancies are retail or working for a food outlet. Other vacancies include cleaners, security guards and interviewers. In fact we can find no evidence that a single vacancy advertised today will earn anything like this claimed average. With start times for these vacancies as early as 4am, and with finish time as late as 2am, on rolling 7 day shift patterns companies are struggling to fill vacancies for what most people will view as low paid work. To make matters worse many of the vacancies are part time. At previous airport job fairs zero hour contacts were also on offer as companies try to avoid holiday pay and National Insurance contributions.
Note: David Franks said this on 9 Dec 2018: “As for employment, the Council is not involved. The Council does not seek tenders for contracts offered by the operating company at the airport. There are around 200 different employers at the airport and many (not all as some are not directly involved in the operation) are employed by the operating company (Council has no control and little influence) and by the operating company’s contractors. The Council’s company, LLAL, is constantly pressurising the operating company to insist on subcontractors paying the Living Wage. There has been some success but more needs to be done.”