Authorities pressed to sell airports

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Indy Politics
THE GOVERNMENT stepped up the pressure on local authorities to volunteer privatisation of 15 regional airports last night.

Stephen Norris, the Minister for Transport in London, said the 48 councils that have a stake in the airports were aware of the Government's 'carrot and stick' approach to sales. But he added: 'You can take a horse to water. The question now is whether it will drink.'

The inducement for privatisation was that under the terms of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Autumn Statement, local authorities could spend every penny of capital receipts obtained from sales up to the end of this year. But they have also been told that they will no longer be allowed to borrow to finance airport expansion and development.

In a written Commons reply on Manchester Airport plans for a second runway, Mr Norris says: 'In view of our desire to see more private sector participation in airport provision, supplementary credit approvals will not be granted for such development work.

'So if the owners wish to see the airport continue to develop, they will need to use their own resources or look to the private sector to fund major expansion. . .'

Mr Norris said last night: 'There is no absolute compulsion on local authorities. But our view is that they ought to see the way the wind is blowing - particularly when the capital receipt rules offer such an attractive opportunity to them.'

Other airports targeted for sale are: Birmingham, Blackpool, Bournemouth, Bristol, Cardiff, East Midlands, Exeter, Humberside, Leeds-Bradford, Luton, Newcastle, Norwich, Southend and Teesside.