Government under fire for spending £3.8million on consultants over new runway
The Government has been slammed for spending an average of £10,000 per day on consultants and law firms in its efforts to decide where a new runway in the south east of England should be built.
The Department for Transport, headed up by under fire minister Chris Grayling, has shelled out more than £3.8 million on external firms since the Airport Commission published a report in July 2015, naming Heathrow Airport as the best location for a new runway.
A Freedom of Information request by the Press Association has revealed that the lion’s share of the money has gone to financial advisers N M Rothschild & Sons, who filed four invoices totalling £1.46 million, which were paid between July last year and October 2016.
Law firm DLA Piper UK was also paid £1.09 million between August 2015 and October 2016, while Allen & Overy received £152,955.60 between January and September this year.
Professional services firm Ernst & Young filed two invoices worth £138,765 for consultancy work, which the Government made good between March and August 2016.
Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Olney, who stunned the Tories by overturning billionaire Zac Goldsmith’s 23,000 majority in the Richmond Park by-election, described the sums as “eye-watering”.
She told the Press Association: “These are eye-watering sums, over £10,000 a day, to pay consultants for an airport people don’t want.
“I won a by-election in Richmond Park and North Kingston on a platform opposing Heathrow expansion. Local people have spoken but Theresa May is ignoring democracy. The people lose out and the only gainers are highly paid consultants.”
Ms Olney added that it is “patently clear” that the Conservative Government had frittered away taxpayer’s money despite deciding “long before it was going to be Heathrow whatever the evidence”.
A third runway at Heathrow Airport was given the go-ahead by the Government in October after proposals to expand its existing runway, or build a second runway at Gatwick, were rejected.
The new runway could be in operation by 2025, but is expected to face fierce opposition from MPs.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson previously described the project as ”undeliverable” and claimed it was likely to be stopped, while Education Secretary Justine Greening said she was ”extremely disappointed”.
A public consultation will be held on the impact of the third runway before the final decision is put to MPs for a vote in the winter of 2017/18.
It was revealed last month that parliamentary support for a third runway at Heathrow has grown, according to research commissioned by the airport.
Almost three quarters (74%) of the 130 MPs polled between October and November say they would back the third runway project.
A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: “The Government’s decision to back expansion at Heathrow Airport was one of the biggest boosts to the UK’s transport infrastructure in a generation, estimated to bring economic benefits to passengers and the wider economy worth up to £61 billion.
“Given the scale and complexity of airport expansion schemes, as well as the various statutory requirements, including those under the Planning Act 2008, it is only right that we should seek expert advice to make sure the Government’s analysis is of the highest quality and fully considers all options and any constraints.
“This is to ensure we get the right solution to the UK’s airport capacity needs and maximise the benefit to the whole country.”