Heathrow’s lobby group “Back Heathrow” PR material in local papers criticised – putting some facts straight

“Back Heathrow”, the lobby group that is (massively) funded and staffed by Heathrow Airport, while pretending it is a “grassroots” campaign, has again paid for expensive newspaper wraps for papers around Slough, Windsor etc. The wraps claim all the usual benefits of a 3rd runway, ignoring the huge public costs and environmental damage. Local resident Paul Groves has written to his local paper, in an attempt to get some balance – against the huge spending power of “Back Heathrow” – and give readers some more factual information. He explains the fallacy of the numbers of jobs Heathrow persists in claiming (based on the maximum “up to” figure from the Airports Commission) its runway would generate, and warns that despite a promise of 6,000 jobs from Terminal 5, in reality the total number employed at Heathrow has declined from around 79,000 in 2008 to around 76,000 by 2014, a reduction of around 3,000. As for the real economic benefit of the runway to the UK, the Net Present Value is now shown, by DfT data, to be around zero – even over 60 years. The DfT have progressively revised this downwards to now from “+£2.9bn to – £2.5bn” in their latest National Policy Statement. This compares with the UK national GDP of £1,700 billion per annum.


This is a critical and sensitive matter for residents throughout our area and they need to know the correct information.  Back Heathrow are funded by Heathrow Airport Ltd from where they obtained the approx £700,000 shown in their accounts at Companies House, solely for campaigning for Heathrow.  This gives a further indication of their financial and messaging bias.

Letter to the  Slough Observer:

Subject: Who are “Back Heathrow” and their case for a 3rd Runway?
From Mr Paul Groves
Regarding the advertising Back Heathrow wrap-around in last week’s Maidenhead Advertiser, it is important for readers to know who they are.  Heathrow Airport is owned mainly by foreign Chinese, Qatari, Singaporean, Spanish and Canadian investors, who last year were sent £800m in dividends, whilst over the previous 10 years Heathrow paid only £24m in corporation tax to HMRC. 
They spend many millions promoting their case for a 3rd runway, in order to gain increased dividends, and Back Heathrow is an action group funded by Heathrow airport to promote Heathrow’s interests, rather than as they purport with real local interests at heart.  Rob Gray their previous director now works directly for Heathrow Airport making the case for a 3rd runway.
In an article on 30th November 2014, The Sunday Times reported of Back Heathrow, “Critics claim the group is a version of an aggressive lobbying tactic called “astroturfing” – when a movement is portrayed as a grassroots initiative but is actually run on behalf of corporate interests.”  
Also “Justine Greening, the Conservative MP for Putney and previous cabinet minister accused Back Heathrow of “making out that they are some sort of residents group”.”  
The leaders of Wandsworth and Hillingdon councils also criticised Back Heathrow’s methods.
On 20th April 2016, the Advertising Standards Authority ruled that Back Heathrow’s ad “Rallying for the runway” breached the CAP Advertising code.  The ASA also previously on 16th September 2015 ruled that Heathrow Airport’s own “Those around us are behind us” breeched the CAP Advertising code, and Back Heathrow’s current advertising is being reported to the ASA.
Whilst the Department for Transport and Government have progressively analysed and downgraded the expected economic benefit of a 3rd Runway by around 60% from that projected by the Howard Davies commission in 2015, Heathrow and Back Heathrow continue to claim an economic benefit for the country of more than 3 times the current DfT figure and even higher than that projected originally by Davies.  Heathrow’s jobs promises for the country come from the flimsy 4 page Quod report that Heathrow commissioned in 2015, which was based on these Davies total economic projections which have since been downgraded by around 60% by the DfT.
Meanwhile in seeking approval to build Teminal 5, Heathrow promised 6,000 new jobs however, in the time since, the total number employed at Heathrow has declined from around 79,000 to around 76,000, a reduction of around 3,000.  At the time of T5 approval Sir John Egan, Chairman of BAA, from whom the current foreign owners purchased Heathrow, stated twice boldly in writing that they “will never need a 3rd Runway” and that “local residents should be assured of this fact”. 
They just cannot be believed. 
Heathrow also have a secret agreement with Slough Council for their support. The Royal Borough’s own surveys have twice shown that a majority of local residents do not want a 3rd Runway.    
Regarding economic benefit for the country, both the Davies Commission and DfT rightly talk of the Net Present Value for the country, i.e. after attributable costs. 
From Davies’ £11.8bn NPV in 2015, in their “further review and sensitivities report” of 2017 the DfT have progressively revised this downwards to now from “+£2.9bn to – £2.5bn” in their latest National Policy Statement   These figures are all over a 60 year period and are negligible compared with a UK national GDP of £1,700bn per annum.

So the economic case for a 3rd Runway has been significantly reduced to a negligible and possibly negative benefit and Heathrow’s jobs promises are similarly grossly exaggerated.Meanwhile the cost, disruption, additional noise, pollution and congestion for us in west London and the Thames Valley remain huge.


Also a letter, about the same misleading “Back Heathrow” newspaper wrap, from Cllr Malcolm Beer:


Letter to the Editor

Beware “Back Heathrow” Rubbish:

The public and business communities should be aware that the latest “news” from the fake Back Heathrow Campaign funded at huge expense by Heathrow is enormously distorted misinformation.

For a start its postal campaign of well over 400,000 reply paid questionnaires resulted   in a “thank you for your support” letter to people who returned them even though they had stated their opposition to Heathrow expansion – so the number of supporters is false.

I have very recently personally heard a leading Union rep tell a meeting that the Unions are now leaning toward opposing expansion as it is very unlikely that the air pollution and other challenges to health could ever be resolved.  Heathrow claims it will guarantee air quality, but expects the rail industry to pay for new services to replace car or taxi access – which will be deterred by widespread road charging within the M25.

Considerable off airport business and residents support was originally generated by a belief in the Campaign’s initial claim that Heathrow would be forced to close if it could not expand to match several rival European airports.   Although unfortunately many still think that to be the gospel truth, many more now realise that the staggeringly enormous financial value of the whole complex and its assured earning power would ensure that it would NEVER close even if it did not expand. Don’t forget that 23% of its airline seats are still empty TODAY.

Few of the claimed improved transport links would be funded by Heathrow and most would not be feasible as bridges and platform lengths prevent use of more tracks or longer trains.

The promised 5,000 new apprenticeships over an undefined period is half of the Airports Commission recommendation adopted by Parliament.   It appears to perpetuate the alarmingly low figure of only hundreds of workers receiving “training” each year in what should be a highly safety and security related industry.

The claimed increase in job numbers is likely to be a false guess similar to that relating to Terminal 5, which saw a job loss of 3,000 rather than a big increase, due to a greater use of technology.   The last factor would limit the increase in on site employment related to another runway and as there is already a substantial spare passenger capacity it would not suddenly attract new local business employment.

However, if the current “all the eggs in one basket” approach continues some large companies would be attracted to the wider area around Heathrow.  As there is a relatively high level of employment incoming employees would add to the dire housing crisis, overstressed services and congested roads which obviously would put up costs to everyone and ultimately make the whole area an uneconomic place to run a business and (MPs please note) a large airport.

Heathrow’s costings and disbenefits amazingly exclude most of the off airport activity and upgrading demanded by any expansion, which the airport claims should be nationally funded and has yet to be resolved.   Transport for London put those costs around £15billion (which would be handy for the NHS which we ALL need) and is almost double Heathrow’s last claimed reduced R3 cost.  All of this is very alarming as Heathrow is already deep in debt and hopes to repay loans out of future (increased?) charges.   If it all goes pear shaped WE will have to bail it out just as we are still doing with the banks.

The huge economic benefits originally claimed are still being clung to by the Government despite only 30% of passenger flights being for business and the vast ever growing list of knock on problems and costs eroding its benefits.

All of that totally ignores the escalating national North / South Divide which is stoking up enormous social and economic problems.   The commitment to ensure 15% of Heathrow flights will serve our Regions is likely to be shelved as Heathrow is one of the dearest in the world and the cost of such short flights would have to be heavily subsidised.  Far better all round to promote the Regions with direct flights as their numbers grow.

It seems likely that Government will not keep up with changing circumstances and whip MPs to vote (without any debate!) to approve Runway 3 to proceed to a strategic planning application Development Control Order process in the coming weeks.

It may be our very last chance to get a common sense decision if the people power of the present day social media could be used by as many readers as possible to ask friends and relatives in the Regions (and closer to Heathrow) to support a better for all strategy by lobbying their MPs on these matters and maybe attaching a copy of this with their message.

Malcolm Beer,

Old Windsor Residents Association Cllr,

Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead,

Chairman Local Authorities Aircraft Noise Council.

Old Windsor, Berks, SL4 2RZ.

Heathrow cutting 200 jobs (20% of total core staff) due to CAA restriction on landing charge rises

Heathrow Airport is planning to cut 20% of its core workforce despite turning its first profit since 2006 and said it is undergoing a “major” restructuring.  Its full-year results statement showed it made a £426m pre-tax profit last year, up from a £33m loss previously, helped by the £1.5bn sale of Stansted in February 2013. Heathrow says it is making the staff cuts due to the CAA not allowing it to increase landing charges, though  Heathrow can appeal till March 27th.  These will be reduced in real terms by 1.5% below the rate of inflation every year until 2019. Colin Matthews said the cuts are likely to affect around 200 staff but no front-line roles, such as security, will be affected. Heathrow employs 7,000 people in total but 1,000 of those roles are part of its “central” head office structure, which is where the job losses are, partly due to having sold off its other airports. In 2013 Heathrow’s revenue rose 11.3%to £2.5bn, and it had 72.3 million passengers, though that is far below earlier forecasts for 2013 traffic.  Excluding money from selling Stansted, Heathrow’s EBITDA rose 23.1% in 2013 to £1.4bn.  The number employed by Heathrow Airport Ltd in 2012 was 5,278 (compared to 5,265 in 2011 and 5,148 in 2010).