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Debate over burner bill ‘has been hijacked’, claims leader of Norfolk County Council

PUBLISHED: 09:04 13 May 2014 | UPDATED: 09:04 13 May 2014

The proposed incinerator site at Saddlebow. Picture: Ian Burt.

The proposed incinerator site at Saddlebow. Picture: Ian Burt.

Archant © 2010

The leader of Norfolk County Council has said the debate over plugging the funding gap created by the council’s incinerator compensation bill has been “hijacked” - as the row over whether to take money from district councils or to cut spending on roads and library books intensified.

The county council voted by 48 votes to 30 to terminate the contract for the proposed incinerator at King’s Lynn last month, leaving the authority having to figure out how to make £8m worth of further savings to cover the likely £30m compensation cost to Cory Wheelabrator.

Much of that money will come from underspends and a £19m war chest which has been built up, but two other options as to how to save the final £1m are on the table.

One option would take £900,000 from highways maintenance and spend £140,000 less on library books, while the other would take about half of the money from council tax on second homes which the county council currently gives to district councils.

That suggestion has angered district council leaders, who say some of that money has already been committed to vital community projects.

West Norfolk Council currently gets £782,000; North Norfolk Council £934,664; Breckland £117,118; Broadland £103,629; Norwich £81,869; Great Yarmouth £110,500 and South Norfolk £137,409.

North Norfolk District Council, West Norfolk Council, Breckland District Council and Broadland District Council have all protested at the prospect of losing a share of that cash.

Tom FitzPatrick, leader at North Norfolk and Nick Daubney, leader at West Norfolk, called for the proposal to be reconsidered.

But George Nobbs, leader of Norfolk County Council, said at yesterday’s cabinet meeting: “I am happy to meet district council leaders and those who would be affected if the money came from roads and library books.

“But this has been hijacked by one or two district councils. This is about £30m and that will impact on all services.”

The cabinet has recommended the final decision on which option to pursue should be with the county council.

Councillors also agreed officers should try to strike a deal with their counterparts in Suffolk for some of Norfolk’s waste to be burned at the incinerator in Great Blakenham.

Any deal would see a maximum of 50,000 tonnes a year - and most likely 35,000 tonnes - sent to Suffolk once that burner becomes operational.

If a deal is agreed, the cost per tonne would be based on a combination of Suffolk County Council’s actual costs, a proportional share of the council’s overheads and the cost of getting the rubbish to Great Blakenham.

• What do you think of the incinerator saga? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

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