Subsidising a passenger airport isn't council business
I read WMN Business Editor Liz Parks report (Future of air links is vital to economic prosperity – Thursday October 10) on the planned end to the Newquay–Gatwick air link, but excuse my guffaws on such a serious matter over the quotes from a public relations wallah for former Harrods owner Mohammed Fayed called Connor Nolan. Mr Nolan demanded that cash-strapped Cornwall Council increase its already grotesque £3 million public subsidy for the airport so that well known celebrity paupers like Rick Stein and Nathan Outlaw and a lot of wealthy tourists can continue to fly to and fro at the Council taxpayers' expense. Get real Mr Nolan. On the front page of the same edition was a report by Toby Meyjes into Cornwall Council budget cuts including an £11.7 million cut to adult care. This is happening just when Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust has a bed blocking crisis with elderly patients that the council should move out of the wards into long term care but doesn't have the cash to pay for it, so they leave them marooned in hospital beds while the hospital has to cancel operations. Care is Cornwall Council's core business – owning and subsidising a scheduled passenger airport isn't. Newquay Airport is a loss-making turkey that should be sold off for whatever it is worth, which probably isn't much, and all public subsidy stopped. If it can't succeed with £43 million of EU aid that was paid supposedly for its transition to a dual use military/civilian airport to a wholly civilian one – how come RAF Typhoon fighters still use it or was that in a secret MOD sale contract clause that Brussels wasn't told about? – then it should end scheduled flights. The bottom line is the statement by easyJet, who said there was 'insufficient demand' for the Newquay-Gatwick route, ie not enough passengers willing to pay a commercial fare. If Cornwall Council wastes more money on the airport it should be investigated by the National Audit Office, who should look critically at claims by the council's finance portfolio holder Alex Folkes that scheduled passenger services have to be maintained at Newquay to make the so-called Aerohub Enterprise Zone succeed. I'm not convinced they do. What will make it go is a compliant Cornish planning authority permitting aviation companies like Agusta Westland to fly prolonged low level – 'thump thump' – hovering in military helicopters that Yeovil's South Somerset council will not.