Manston campaigners find cost-cutting Kent County Council to spend up to £100,000 relating to KLM flights

Campaigners at Manston report that they have had to resort to the threat of a Freedom of Information request to find out if Kent County Council has been giving subsidies to the airport.  They have managed to get the following statements from KCC: “I can confirm Kent County Council has not been asked for any contributions from KLM nor have we been asked to fund KLM.  We were however, asked by the owners of Manston airport if we would contribute to a marketing package to market both the route and the opportunities in Kent.  We have agreed a contribution of up to £100,000 subject to approval of a marketing plan and for the monies to be managed by Visit Kent.” So that means rate payers in Kent are to contribute up to £100,000 in order to encourage flights to Schiphol from Manston, which looks like a bribe or subsidy, at a time when KCC has had to make around £94 million of cuts to its budget, including cutting £18m from its adult care services, and £5.3m from its childrens’ services.



Council throws good money at bad airport

1.3.2013  (Herne Bay Matters blog – No Night Flights at Manston)
Getting a straight answer out of KCC is hard at the best of times – even with the legal leverage of the Freedom of Information Act it can take months. But it’s usually worth the wait, and the dogged persistence is rewarded. And let’s not forget, anything that’s released under the FoI Act is stuff that they should have told you in the first place. By definition.
A man of Kent, showing the finest British bulldog determination and tenacity set about finding out if there are any hidden deals behind the recently announced KLM-Manston story. Eventually, he managed to prise these three sentences out of them:
I can confirm Kent County Council has not been asked for any contributions from KLM nor have we been asked to fund KLM.
We were however, asked by the owners of Manston airport if we would contribute to a marketing package to market both the route and the opportunities in Kent.
We have agreed a contribution of up to £100,000 subject to approval of a marketing plan and for the monies to be managed by Visit Kent.
Regular readers will remember that KCC and Infratil colluded in a bid to central Government which included a generous £600k sweetener for KLM – effectively “we’ll pay you to use this airport”. They were turned down, quite rightly.
We’ll probably never know whether KLM had put pressure on them to cross their palm with silver, or whether KCC and Infratil are simply very generous (with other people’s money), but it’s depressingly unsurprising to find that they’re at it again.
Everyone knows Infratil is selling Manston airport. More accurately, Infratil is trying to sell Manston airport – it’s been on the market since March 2012, and the asking price seems to be sinking to the same level as airport-free agricultural land. Despite this, they have the balls to ask KCC for money to market and promote the highest profile route they’ve got (even though it isn’t even running yet). KCC, unspeakable idiots that they are, agreed!
For reasons best known to KCC – but I suspect connected to EU competition regulations – they will be “laundering” the money through Visit Kent. So Kent County Council is happy to use public money to market a French/Dutch airline flying from a New Zealand-owned airport. And, yes, this is the same KCC that’s cutting funding to things that people care about.
What makes KCC think this will be money well spent? And what exactly are Visit Kent going to be doing? Good questions, which we have asked on your behalf.
[WTF means what the … !]
and from No Night Flights at  Manston – Herne Bay Matters:

Why throw good money at bad airport?

In the hope of finding why KCC are peeing our money away, we’ve asked Sharon Dawson (top banana at Visit Kent) some simple and obvious questions. We’ll let you know what, if anything, comes of them.
Dear Ms Dawson,
I understand that Visit Kent has been given £100,000 of public money in order to ‘market’ KLM flights at Manston. My understanding is that you believe that this money is to enable you to bring visitors into the county as tourists to the county in order to spend money in the county.
I would be grateful if you could answer some questions.
1. What research have KCC or Visit Kent done in terms of revenue brought specifically into a county that has a regional airport? The research I have undertaken shows that regional airports are exporters of tourists to a very significant degree and that even those visitors they do attract tend to head straight for major tourist centres, most notably London, Edinburgh, Glasgow etc. could you provide me with some concrete evidence that you have that shows significant revenue streams from incoming tourists at comparable regional airports? I am assuming that such research must be available or such a significant sum of money would not have been committed to a privately owned operation?
2. Exactly how is this money to be spent and where? Given the aim is to attract foreign visitors – which countries/cities/areas are to be targeted and on what basis? I would like confirmation that no money is to be spent advertising outward bound routes given that simply takes money OUT the county. The UK’s tourism deficit is already greater than in any other country so it hardly benefits our ailing economy, both local and national to spend public money on persuading people to spend their money abroad.
I look forward to hearing from you.


Comment from an AirportWatch member:

Ryanair has often used this “marketing expenses” mechanism at foreign airports – it is a way around EU subsidy rules I believe.

However, if the activity was going to be done anyway and paid for by KLM, and instead KCC pay for it, then that is a subsidy. If the activity would only be done if KCC paid for it and the KLM deal was continent upon this, then it is a bribe/subsidy/incentive
Either way, KCC are paying to have more flights.
It would be interesting to know which side of the route gets the marketing budget spent   i.e. is it to get Dutch people flying to Kent, or the other way around – and whether this economically benefits Kent …


By contrast with the subsidy from Kent County Council:

Up to 150 jobs cut as Kent County council shaves another £34m from budget

15.1.2013  (Kent online)

by political editor Paul Francis

As many as 150 more jobs could be cut by Kent County Council after it announced today it has been forced to save another £34million from its budget.

County Hall’s Conservative administration is to set out plans for a further round of cost-cutting today and say more jobs will have to go.

The council had already announced a £60m package of cost-cutting measures in its budget this year.

However, the extent of the government’s cut to town hall grants, announced in late December, means council chiefs have had to find a further £34m of savings.

Unions say they are dismayed by the news, coming on top of a four-year programme at KCC to shed 1,500 posts to cope with the government’s austerity drive.

County council leader Paul Carter said: “We will be expecting the organisation to take a further 100 to 150 jobs out of back office functions and some tiers of management but not frontline services.”

The council will also be dipping into its reserves – so-called “rainy day” money – to cushion the impact of the fresh round of savings.

It had already planned to take £6m out of its reserves and today confirmed it will use £3m more.

“The long and the short of it is that we have had to go back to the drawing board to find another £15m to £16m, which would be the equivalent of a 3% council tax increase,” said Cllr Carter.

He added: “It will involve dipping into our reserves as a one-off. That does build a cliff edge because that is one-off money and we cannot keep going into those reserves to pay the bills.”

Unison branch secretary David Lloyd said the additional job losses were unwelcome news.

“We are concerned that his will mean an attack on public services at a time when demand for many is increasing.”

Opposition Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Trudy Dean said: “I never accept these claims that frontline services are unaffected by this kind of cost-cutting.

“My view is that there no cuts that do not affect services – there will be fewer people around to do the paperwork meaning others will have to do it.”

The county council is expected to confirm that it will press ahead with the bulk of its original £60m savings, including cutting more than £18m from its adult care services, a 5% cut.

Spending on children’s services will also be cut by £5.3m.

Tuesday, January 15 2013