'It feels like LLAL isn't disclosing information': Luton Airport company under fire from councillors

A Luton Borough Council executive member described it as "worrying" that its airport company board might be reluctant to disclose information.

Friday, 11th June 2021, 12:39 pm
Updated Friday, 11th June 2021, 12:40 pm
Luton Airport

Annual audits from 2018/19 and 2019/20 for London Luton Airport Ltd (LLAL) remain unsigned.

The local authority has been asked by its external auditors to review everything about its ownership and finance arrangements for LLAL (see here).

Labour Dallow councillor Abbas Hussain told the scrutiny finance group on Tuesday: "They're looking for closure on 2018/19 and 2019/20 which is worrying because we're moving into 2021/22 soon.

"And then another couple of months we'll be moving ahead into 2022/23.

"We still haven't had a closure or a report to say how the audits from 2018 to 2020 were.

"Fine, I understand Covid came last year, but these audits are from 2018/19 and 2019/20 when there was no Covid.

"We're moving on to the next phase of the (LLAL) stabilisation plan and it's a bit concerning that we're looking ahead for investment, although we don't have the previous outcome of the auditor's report.

"It's worrying especially if LLAL isn't disclosing information. It feels like LLAL's not disclosing information.

"And then we're being asked as members to invest in LLAL as well, going into the future."

The council's senior director finance, revenues and benefits Dev Gopal replied: "For 2018/19 we were very close to signing those accounts.

"When Covid-19 hit, financial regulation authorities said that's a big issue not just for the council but for the UK and the world.

"The scale of that stabilisation (plan) is quite significant. The second stage was approved as part of the 2021/22 budget.

"By June 28, when we have the executive report approved, that will give the reassurance to LLAL as well that it's got a stabilisation plan.

"LLAL auditors will look at it to confirm the stabilisation and recovery plan, then that comes to the group account which we as a council will have to sign."

Neil Harris, from Ernst and Young, referred to "a very complex and significant issue for the local authority and LLAL"..

"There was certainly an agreement at the back end of last year there needed to be a more settled position on the stabilisation plan and what the likely outcome is of the special force majeure," he explained.

"This wasn't just to enable ourselves to conclude on the disclosures and judgements and the financial statements.

"But it also informs the work PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) is doing, the auditors of LLAL.

"LLAL's financial statements for 2019/20 financial year still remain open for exactly the same reason as the council's.

"There's been a lot of work to stress test the LLAL medium-term financial plan to take account of assumptions associated with the direct air-rail transit (DART) scheme, the mid-term review of airport expansion plans and the negotiations over the special force majeure."

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"It's in everyone's interest to draw to a conclusion now of the 2018/19 and 2019/20 financial statements because al ot of the decisions the council's taking now have gone beyond 2020/21 into 2021/22," added Mr Harris.

> LLAL has yet to file its accounts with Companies House. When contacted by Luton News, a spokesman said: "LLAL contacted Companies House to explain that there would be a delay in filing the accounts due to the impact of the pandemic and Companies House kindly agreed an extension to the end of July."