Dear Editor, In this time of financial cost-cutting measures when front-line staff face losing their jobs, we understand that Birmingham City Council is proposing to inject a large sum of money (between £10 and £30 million, although nobody will confirm this) into a scheme to divert the A45 away from the airport, thus allowing the runway to be extended.
However, the city council will not deny or confirm that this is happening and have refused to disclose this information when we lodged a Freedom of Information request on the matter.
There is a committee report about this matter which went to Cabinet in July, but this contains very little specific information about the proposals and gives no details of costs and how it is to be paid for. The report refers a number of times to another confidential report – which presumably contains the full details and costings and the public is unable to view this.
Whatever ones view on the merits of the airport expansion (ours are well-known), it surely cannot be right that this is happening in secrecy and outside of any public scrutiny.
We find it unacceptable that this is happening at a time when the council has issued statement after statement about the need to reduce its costs and greatly reduce its own staff.
We understand the council is looking to save £300 million pounds from its budget. The road project it is paying for is outside the boundary of Birmingham, which further begs the question why our tax payers should pay for it.
We are also aware that the major shareholders, in the form of pension funds of teachers from Canada and Australia, are reluctant to pay the full costs of the runway extension and that this was discussed at a recent board meeting. Although shares in the company are also held by seven local authorities, the BIA board meetings are held in secrecy, and this does not speak well for their accountability to the interests of taxpayers in those areas.
It seems that of all these local authorities, it is only Birmingham that is offering to directly subsidise the airport through this road-building scheme. The question should be raised of why public money is required to fund the realignment of the A45 to enable the runway extension to be built. Also, why are the seven local authorities of the West Midlands going to forego their dividend payments from BIA Ltd?
Birmingham Friends of the Earth