Striking the right balance – or how the greed of the Council went too far

There is no doubt that Luton Airport has brought jobs and money to the town of Luton and the surrounding area, but not wealth. Luton is one of the UK’s most deprived towns. Every week workers at the airport are forced to claim benefits and free school meals due to low wages. Many can only ever find seasonal work or part-time work or – worse still; zero-hour contracts.

Meanwhile, the Council claims that 38p in every pound it spends is derived from income it has earned from its airport and that the airport is subsidising the council tax for its residents. This, despite the fact that Luton’s Council Tax is higher than many surrounding areas.

Council Tax band D Homes Comparison

£1,872North Herts
£1,809St Albans
£1,392Tower Hamlets
£1,236Kensington and Chelsea

For anyone living on the flight path of the airport, passenger numbers have grown tenfold from around 1.8 million to 18 million passengers per year in the last 25 years, but instead of  being content with what has clearly been a success in the eyes of the Council, it wants more despite the airport not having the physical land within its own boundaries. Lack of land hasn’t stopped those that set the policies for the Council. These policy makers seem not to care about the lives of people who will be further impacted, if the airport is expanded outside the town’s borders.

The view of some supporters of airport expansion is that if you do not like living next to an airport then why buy or rent a home next to an airport that was bound to expand?

The answer to this question is a simple one – people did not; instead they bought and rented homes next to a major public park that has been voted the best in Bedfordshire. A park which has achieved County Wildlife Status. An award-winning park which is a major attraction.

This park, despite being created on a clay-capped former refuse tip, is a credit to the last generation of councillors and officials who had the foresight to create an oasis of wildlife and public open parkland next to an airport for the public to enjoy. Now the majority of present-day councillors and officials want to destroy what nature has turned into something really special, by turning the park into a second airport joined to the existing runway.

The argument put forward by some councillors is that if the airport is not allowed to expand it will die, as the airlines will move away. This is total nonsense pedalled by ignorant councillors struggling to justify doubling passenger numbers.  Both Heathrow and Gatwick have been operating at near capacity for many years and have suffered no impact. In fact, due to their popularity and being close to capacity, landing slots have been sold for millions of pounds.

The proposal to expand the airport is being put forward by a Council that is not interested in the impact a scaled-up airport will cause to residents; not only to the residents whose homes are close to the airport, but also those living many miles away under flight paths. The Council is clearly not content with reaping the reward of an airport operating at its legal maximum capacity. Instead it has gambled the town’s future by borrowing hundreds of millions of pounds in the hope that it can make more money.

At the moment that dream is shattered, as the Council has put all of its eggs into the airport basket instead of diversifying its commercial activities, and now the chickens have come home to roost. Instead of the airport laying golden eggs, it is haemorrhaging money. In an act of total desperation, the Council wants residents to sign a petition to government begging for the government to use taxpayers’ money to bail the Council out – this, despite the Council sitting on reserves of nearly half a billion pounds.

The Council claims it wants to end poverty in Luton, yet it wants to create many lower paid jobs at an expanded airport where most of those jobs will be traditional low-paid terminal, apron and car parking jobs.

The Council needs to strike the right balance by not expanding the airport outside its own existing boundary. We do not want to see the airport shrinking or disappearing; we want it to be successful, but we say enough is enough.

We urge the Council to be content with what it has. It is called a balanced outcome.

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