Derry City & Strabane District Council has agreed to ‘urgently engage’ with the British government and request a £15m contribution towards the cost of running City of Derry airport for the next six years.
If successful, it will significantly reduce the financial challenge on the Council and the responsibility for the sustainability of the airport will become a shared one between Council and its partners in government.
Council is presently responsible for paying all the costs associated with the management of the airport and in his report to members of the Governance and Strategic Planning committee, Lead Finance Officer, Alfie Dallas said the airport is costing local ratepayers £3.4m a year which is a ‘significant challenge for a small Northern Ireland Council with the other significant funding priorities that we have.’
Mr Dallas said; “This year we have received £2.5m of support mainly towards operating subvention costs during the pandemic and those savings that Council will realise as a result of that has provided us with some interim funds that will ensure sustainability into 2021/22 as the medium term discussions are progressed.”
Mr Dallas also explained to Members that a three stranded approach is recommended by the business case and that “the need for government intervention at this point is critical.”
The first element of the business case is a request for a funding package of £15m from the British government over the next six years which equates to £2.5m per year towards the running costs of the airport.
Mr Dallas said this would allow Council’s contribution to reduce and these funds to be made available for other strategic priorities.
The second strand would be a further request that the British government continues to provide 100% of the funding required to maintain the air route from Derry to London for the same six year duration. The PSO (Public Service Order) London route to Stansted is currently contracted to be supported for two more years until March 2023 with the cost shared between the Northern Ireland Executive and UK Government.
PSOs provide funding for air routes which are seen as vital for the economic development of the region they serve.
The third strand recommended is North South ministerial negotiations with a view to prioritising the setting up of a PSO air route between Derry and Dublin.
Councillors unanimously supported a proposal from Sinn Féin Councillor Paul Fleming and seconded by SDLP Councillor John Boyle that council officers now ‘urgently communicate’ with the two governments in relation to the new business case which will be vital for the sustainability of the airport.