3 December 2008

The RAF has run a military airport at St Mawgan, near Newquay; and for a while now Cornwall county council has at the same place run a commercial, civilian airport, called Newquay, Cornwall airport. The RAF provided the air traffic control. The county council was right to step in a few years back and take over the commercial part of the airport; it was costly to do this but right to ensure that in the twenty-first century Cornwall had an airport to help its economy and people. For this and for the continual development of the airport the county council deserve much credit.

In 2006 the RAF announced its decision to close down the military side in 2008; this was two years advance notice for the county council who was to take over the air traffic control and fire services there and obtain a CAA licence. In March this year the RAF delayed their withdrawal from 1 August 2008 until 1 December to help the county council. In a media statement the council said the delay would ensure a “seamless overnight handover” and a “seamless transition.”

However, two years later, December, and the council isn’t ready and the RAF has said its people are committed to other work elsewhere and their deadline cannot be altered again. The upshot is that at the last minute the airport has closed to passengers for about three weeks while the county council gets up to speed. The date of reopening is only a hope at present and not guaranteed.

Let’s get this clear. The county council is run by the Liberal Democrats who hold all the portfolio (executive or cabinet) posts; county council officers work under Liberal Democrat direction and supervision. At bottom, no matter what the part of others might turn out to be, this airport foul up is down to the Liberal Democrat administration at the county council which appears to have been surprised by the lack of readiness. Ironically the council’s newspaper for this month has a two-page spread on the council’s “masterplan” for the airport. The Libdem administration should accept responsibility for the foul up because it is responsible for it.

It isn’t just the airport, is it? This is the Libdem council that fouled up about the county’s fire service . This is the Libdem council that foisted the unitary council on to an unconvinced electorate, albeit with the active support of the Labour government. This is the Libdem council that took so long to agree on unitary councillor numbers that unitary elections have been postponed until, well, no one knows but perhaps June but probably autumn next year. This is the Libdem council that will probably not have all the unitary elements in place until even later than that. This is the Libdem council of whom assessment reports do not glow. Did I mention their council newspaper, Your Cornwall, delivered free to all households in Cornwall and which this month had only five job advertisements, though such advertisements were to help to pay for it?

Three months ago I put up a quiz about the Liberal Democrats in Cornwall after the unitary seats nonsense: was their county administration a pantomime, or a farce, a circus, an opera buffa, a burlesque, or a cabaret? That was before the shambles of the airport. Eventually, at some ever-receding date we shall get the chance to vote on this Liberal Democrat record.

Additamentum 18 December 2008
The Civil Aviation Authority has now granted Newquay Cornwall airport an operating licence and the airport will reopen on 20 December 2008.