The financial viability of UK airports could be at risk, thanks to proposals to make regional airports pay for their own policing. As things stand at the moment, only nine of the larger airports, such as London Heathrow, Manchester and Birmingham do this, but plans are afoot to include in excess of a further fifty, including Liverpool John Lennon.
A formal consultation on airport security has recently been launched and no decisions will be taken for a further three months. New legislation is, however, expected to be passed in the next session of Parliament. Ruth Kelly, Transport Secretary, has said that it is unfair for there not to be a “level playing field” and is adamant that, with the growth of regional airports, the time is right for taxpayers to stop having to subsidise profit making private enterprises. Currently shopping centres, railway stations, and football stadiums have to foot their own policing bills.
Under the proposed new legislation airports will have responsibility for drawing up their own plans for airport security. Edinburgh airport recently opened their own police unit at an annual cost of £2.5 million, whilst the annual bill for the relatively small City airport in London is some £7 million. Airports such as Liverpool will in all probability face multi million pound bills at a time when many would argue the aviation industry is facing a crisis.
The security risk to regional airports was brought home to the government and public alike last summer after the bomb attempt on Glasgow airport and somewhat alarmingly the funding for policing these potential targets is said to be woefully inadequate.