Teesside Airport flight subsidy – an unknown amount of public money – divides mayoral contenders
Date added: February 14, 2020
New flights from Teeside airport (used to be called Durham Tees Valley airport) are being subsidised by taxpayers. Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA) has contributed funds to support six routes from the airport. The amount has not been released due to “commercial sensitivity” but it was believed in 2018 that there would be subsidies of £1 million over 3 years. Now Tees Valley mayoral candidate Jessie Joe Jacobs said the figure should be made public. She said: “If subsidies are going to flights, are we going to see subsidies for buses for places like Port Clarence, where people cannot get to their local hospital without getting a taxi?” With more awareness of climate breakdown, flying shame and increased rail usage, is helping people to take domestic flights sensible use of scarce public funds? The airport was brought back into public hands at the start of last year for £40m as part of a £588.2m investment plan agreed by Labour council leaders and Tees Valley Mayor Houchen. It is owned in a 75/25 split between the TVCA and Stobart Aviation. Its business plan forecasts losses until 2025 after which it just might make a small profit. But who knows, so far ahead. Voting in the mayoral elections will take place in May.
Taxpayers are subsidising new Teesside Airport routes
By Alex Metcalfe Local Democracy Reporter (Northern Echo) 11th Feb 2020
TAXPAYERS are subsidising a raft of new flights from Teesside Airport to six locations across the UK and Ireland.
Tickets for flights to Dublin, Belfast and London went on sale last week with routes run by Eastern Airways.
But it has been revealed funds from the Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA) have gone into supporting the new routes – which include new flights to Southampton, Cardiff and the Isle of Man.
Details about how much is being put towards the flights have not been released due to “commercial sensitivity” reasons.
Officials fear revealing the sums would weaken Teesside’s hand when it came to competing with neighbouring airports.
However, Jessie Joe Jacobs, Labour’s Tees Valley Mayor candidate, has called for transparency on how much has been offered up.
She said: “If subsidies are going to flights, are we going to see subsidies for buses for places like Port Clarence, where people cannot get to their local hospital without getting a taxi?
“I am fully supportive of our airport and I want to see it succeed, but I want transport infrastructure and the whole thing to work together.
“At the moment, we are failing on buses and on the railways. He (Ben Houchen) needs to keep his eye on the whole ball – not just the airport.”
The airport was brought back into public hands at the start of last year for £40m as part of a £588.2m investment plan agreed by Labour council leaders and Tees Valley Mayor Houchen.
It is owned in a 75/25 split between the TVCA and Stobart Aviation.
The masterplan to turn around its fortunes aims to hook in a low cost airline to push passenger numbers beyond 1.4m by 2022.
The business plan also forecasts losses will continue at the airport until 2025 before hoping to turn a £650,000 surplus in 2026.
New routes from Teesside were unveiled last month.
But Ms Jacobs said she wanted the public to be aware of how much money was being put towards the airport.
She added: “It’s brilliant getting these flights but are people happy that their hard-earned taxes are being spent on subsidising these routes?”
“We just want transparency – people want the airport to work but we also want to know what price people are paying to make it work.”
Flights to London will begin on April 27 from Teesside for the first time in more than a decade.
Mr Houchen hit back at the calls – saying he was elected in 2017 with a clear mandate to buy the airport and save it from closure.
“A promise I delivered on,” he added.
The Conservative mayor claimed his Labour opponents had “always played politics with the airport” and were “desperate to see it fail”.
He criticised the party over the sale of the airport to Peel in 2003 for £500,000 – as well as efforts by five Labour local authority leaders to invest £500,000 in the ailing site in 2018.
Responding to Ms Jacobs’s concerns, Mr Houchen said: “This is a statement from someone who doesn’t care and who doesn’t understand our local airport.
“It is just further evidence that under Labour, they would pull funding for our airport and it would close.
“Thankfully, under my plan not only are we making progress in line with our rescue plan, but we are ahead of schedule.
“I pledged to introduce 10 extra routes by 2022. Fast-forward 12 months and we are on track to reach that target well before anyone expected us to do so.”
Mr Houchen also pointed to rising passenger numbers on the KLM service to Amsterdam and new holiday flights at Teesside.
“And I have just unveiled a whole host of new UK and Ireland flights, which will add nearly 200,000 extra seats a year,” he added. “All of this would be gone under Labour.”
Ms Jacobs said she’d supported the campaign to save the airport for the past five years.
She added: “There is a way of saving our airport by not racking up a bill – I am fully committed to the airport but I think Houchen goes for quick wins and headlines over a long term sustainable approach for the benefit of Teesside.”
Voting in the mayoral elections will take place in May.
Possible £1m of public money in Durham Tees Valley Airport deal to bring in new flights
May 12, 2018
A £1m deal sweetener to attract airlines to Durham Tees Valley Airport has been recommended for approval. Dubbed the “Air Connectivity Facility”, the deal requires airlines bid for a seven figure sum in return for strengthening ties with the beleaguered airport. The money would be paid out by the Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA) over three years, if the plan is given the green light this week. The money is being offered to help strengthen ties with airlines, and get more flights using the airport. A meeting of the TCVA discussed the possibility of a deal in February with public money earmarked to help reduce the risks for airlines looking to branch out. The importance of flights to Schipol Airport (Amsterdam) from the airport were stressed. Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen backed the deal, saying this was a key part of his “longer-term plan if we get hold of the airport.” Passenger numbers are tiny, and fell from 140,902 people in 2015 to 132,369 in 2016. [Number was 142,080 in 2018]. A report on the £1m fund proposal pointed out the airport’s perilous predicament with the continuing decline of the airport labelled a “significant risk” to the region’s economy.