'We need more' - Norwich Airport boss on government grant
- Credit: Archant
The boss of Norwich Airport believes "much more significant support" is vitally needed from the government to see it through the pandemic.
Richard Pace, managing director, was responding to news that Norwich Airport is eligible to apply for a government grant to cover its business rates.
Initially the government had said airports could bid for "up to £8m" as part of the scheme but it has now been revealed the money to be handed out will only cover business rates.
Therefore the Airport and Ground Operators Support Scheme, unveiled by transport secretary Grant Shapps, will not dish out anywhere close to that amount to Norwich.
It is believed the amount which Norwich Airport could be in line to receive would equate to just 5pc of its overall running costs.
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Mr Pace said: “The Airport and Ground Operations Support Scheme will provide some financial relief for Norwich Airport and across airports in England devastated by the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.
"Most airports have remained open, sustaining consistent losses for nearly 12 months, in order to facilitate essential freight, emergency service, military and offshore oil, gas and wind flights.
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“When originally announced, the business rate relief was very welcome and came alongside a real hope for an initial recovery through the Test-to-Release Scheme. However, the pandemic took a turn for the worse and the outlook for 2021 has worsened significantly.
“With airports effectively closed again by the government’s travel restrictions, much more significant support is now needed. This should see airports through the current crisis to safeguard jobs and ensure they are fighting fit to boost the UK’s post-pandemic economic recovery.”
When questioned in the House of Commons about the level of support, Robert Courts, the parliamentary under secretary for the Department of Transport, confirmed the scheme "will provide support for eligible businesses, up to the equivalent of their business rates liabilities in the 2020/21 financial year, subject to certain conditions and a cap per applicant of £8m".
Norwich South MP Clive Lewis said: "Those two little words 'up to' are doing a hell of a lot of work in this piece of sleight-of-hand triumphalism claiming the airport 'will receive up to £8 million'.
"The Tory transport minister says this scheme compensates airports for business rates. So if your airport has business rates of £8 million, you get £8 million. But Norwich Airport is liable for nothing like £8 million in business rates. It is completely dishonest to try and con local people the Airport will receive 'up to £8 million to help it protect jobs'."
Chloe Smith, MP for Norwich North said: “This funding offers vital support for Norwich Airport – which supports so many jobs and businesses in our city."
Mr Shapps said: “A thriving aviation industry has been central to the success of this country and while we recognise the testing conditions airports are currently facing as a result of the pandemic, I believe that the sector will be ready to bounce back once restrictions are lifted."
Analysis by business editor Richard Porritt
Grants of any description to struggling industries will be - quite rightly - welcomed with open arms.
And it is excellent news that Norwich Airport is getting something to help it bounce back when we can all, finally, get back on planes and head for the sun.
But the government has been naughty here. They sold this scheme as grants of “up to £8million” for each airport. But the small print says something quite different.
Yes some bigger airports will get the full grant – but only if that is the amount their business rates will be in 2020/21.
It seems odd that transport secretary Grant Shapps would try to the pull the wool in this way – instead of feeling grateful for the much-needed hand out airports and the public feel a bit cheated.
That argument aside the aviation sector does need help. Norwich Airport provides vital jobs in the area and that must be recognised.
When times improve though it will also be one of the sectors that comes back strong quickly as everyone looks to escape their own four walls for the beach.