Private Eye's Rotten Boroughs column includes an item about Lib Dem-controlled Cornwall Council's blunders over the transfer for responsibility for traffic control of Newquay Airport from the RAF to the council. A report into what went wrong by Sir John Mills, a former Chief Executive of the Council, will not be made public until after next month's elections.
Private Eye report:
"Despite the Council sp[ending £6m on advisors to guide it through the transfer, the CAA had concerns about air traffic control, fire cover and runway maintenance and refused to grant the council a licence. The airport was closed for three weeks and flights diverted before the CAA was finally satisfied, causing losses to operators such as Ryanair, which now intends to claim hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation from the council.
The Mills report was due to be delivered in March, but Council Chief Executive Kevin Lavery says he hasn't had it yet. Anyway, he says, the council is now in the six-week period of pre-election "purdah" during which councils are not supposed to publish any material that might influence the outcome of that election. So publication must be delayed to avoid "considerable media and political interest" – and we can't have that, can we?
Yet councillors tell the Eye that senior officers have told them the report was received on April 21 – two days before purdah kicked in, which would have given the authority the opportunity to distribute it, hold a meeting and give the public the facts before the election. Clearly someone's memory is playing tricks."
It's probably not a very good idea for Councils to own airports.