A second loan to support Birmingham Airport as it battles the impact of the coronavirus lockdown is set to be approved by council chiefs.
Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council’s cabinet has agreed to an emergency loan worth £3.7 million for the airport, following on from Birmingham City Council last week rubber stamping £18.5 million in funding.
The capital is aimed at helping the transport hub survive this latest round of lockdown restrictions as government ministers continue to warn that it is too early to say if foreign holidays will be allowed this summer.
The cabinet’s recommendation will be referred to the full council for final sign-off next week but members agreed it was a “no-brainer” given the airport’s importance to the region’s economy and the thousands of people it employed.
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Solihull and the six other councils of the West Midlands metropolitan county own 49 per cent of the airport, 48.25 per cent belongs to the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and the remaining 2.75 per cent is held in trust for the staff.
Cllr Ian Courts, leader of Solihull Council, said: “If we don’t make this investment, someone else will and what will happen, potentially, is we’ve lost any form of control.”
Cllr Ted Richards, who is the council’s representative on the airport board, said the whole region would suffer “economically and from every other direction” if the local authority and other partners failed to step in.
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“I think we also have to recognise it’s an extremely well-run airport, it’s done an awful lot in recent years to deal with the (environmental impact).
“I think it would be a fatal mistake if we were to not take the action that is being proposed because it’s in our best interests, the interests of the people of Solihull.”
He echoed fears that without action other agencies could “take over” the site, leaving the council without a seat at the table.
Cllr Steve Caudwell, leader of Solihull’s Green Party, said he “struggled” with the idea that there were hopes of restoring previous levels of activity at the same time as wanting Solihull to be net-carbon neutral by 2041.
In the final week of January, just 31 flights touched down at the airport, compared to 740 at the same point in 2020.
It emerged last week that two other West Midlands councils were expected to agree emergency funding and the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan would also offer fiscal support.
The airport said: “The pandemic has led to Birmingham Airport’s most severe downturn in its history, with passenger volumes in April to December last year resulting in a 91 per cent decline.
“To limit the impact of significantly reduced passenger numbers, there have been a range of measures the airport has taken to preserve cash and manage costs, including limiting spending, suspending capital projects and maximising the use of the Job Retention Scheme.
“These actions have been designed to protect the airport’s long-term interests and ensure it is well placed to respond to the recovery when passengers resume flying again.
“Any support is very much welcomed as the airport deals with the ongoing impact of covid-19 and rebuilds post-pandemic to support the region’s economic recovery and air transportation needs.”