A Major Financial cost to the community.
The Rochester Airport Master Plan requires Medway Council to spend £4 million! No specific costs for the proposed alterations of the airport are mentioned in the Masterplan exhibition material or local mailings – and so nobody knows exactly what our ratepayer’s money will be spent on!.
A review of the recent Airport Operators Tender Document states that the council is to contribute a large sum of tax payers money (up to £4 million) towards the cost of paving the runway and other unspecified airport alterations. So why then were these known facts not mentioned at the Master Plan Exhibition at the Innovation Centre, or in any of the mailings and flyers distributed by Medway Council?
The Cabinet paper and councillor’s own comments in the published minutes of council meetings (where the airport has been discussed) appear biased towards making sure the airport operator’s business plans are successful over a twenty five year period. (The existing lease is only for a five year period). The safety of the families who will be adversely affected by the Masterplan’s proposals to increase air traffic at the airport are NOT mention anywhere. In addition, no alternative uses for the money – like spending on hospitals, school, or other alternative projects – have been looked at.
The Masterplan states that the airport is “important to many people living in Medway” and that “we need to think about how we are going to safeguard the important aviation activity”. There is no evidence to support such statements. Visibility of a professional ‘due diligence’ (an analysis by professional auditors) and the likely real cost to the community might well change people’s tolerance of the proposal. To our knowledge, no such professional audit has been carried out.
Once the investment of £4 million of our ratepayer’s money is made in the airport alterations. Medway Council (and us as ratepayers) will become beholden to keep the operator in business for the duration of the 25 year lease.
There appears to be no risk-analysis on what would happen to the £4 million invested should the airport operator go bankrupt. As a consequence, any Planning Board determination might be biased to ensure the success of the airport at any cost; (such as allowing inappropriately large planes to fly at unsociable hours of the day and night) to avoid Medway Council’s embarrassment if a substantial portion of the £4 million is lost. (down the plughole?)
It would seem that residents in the flight path will be actually paying to have their lives endangered if the current Masterplan is not changed.
It is hardly surprising that most people we have asked find these investment proposals unacceptable and wish to challenge them.
The airport operator currently pays between £30K to £40K (including business rates) a year to lease the airport from the council. A rough calculation based on the average number of flights per day, would suggest that ratepayers could be subsidising each aircraft taking off and landing to the tune of about £30 for the next 25 years!
Residents we have spoken with are extremely annoyed by such wasteful spending during these times of austerity and pay freezes.
The return on investment (ROI) to assist the airport operator to achieve business plans and objectives may be construed as a subsidy from the public purse to assist a wholly private business. Should Medway Council be subsidising a private company at all? What financial benefit will the Medway community, as a whole, excluding the shareholders of the airport operating company, get from this public investment?
Medway Council’s cabinet papers suggest that the possible lease or sale of land after the Masterplan’s airport alterations will return the £4 million to the ratepayers. If, however, the airport alterations were not needed, then the public’s investment would NOT be needed. Other possibilities for the land use could then be considered which could benefit a wider section of the community and possibly make the site more attractive to ethical investors looking to participate in the proposed Business/Technology Park.
In summary the Masterplan without significant public money invested is an unworkable and dangerous pipe-dream rather than a serious proposal. The potential financial return is probably much less than you’d get from putting £4M in an ordinary high street building society account. In short – the Airport Masterplan is not a good investment!
We would like to see a ‘full fiscal due diligence’ be completed and made public before a 25 year airport lease is signed.