An independent report into the way the hugely controversial contract for an incinerator in Norfolk was entered into has been published - and concluded proper processes were followed.

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Norfolk County Council’s decision, in 2011, to award a contract to Cory Wheelabrator to run the £600m plant at Saddlebow in King’s Lynn has long been under scrutiny.

The council’s cabinet, in June, commissioned an independent report investigating the process of the contract award.

Jonathan Acton Davis, QC, was selected by anti-incineration campaigners to carry out the review, and his report was published today.

Questions had been asked over whether officers did enough to mitigate the risk of the Saddlebow proposal not getting planning permission and if the controlling cabinet, rather than full council, had the authority to award the contract.

Mr Acton Davis said: “I can find nothing to lead me to conclude that any undue risk was taken. I can identify no areas in which I can see potential scope for the holding to account of officers. I have found nothing which would enable me to conclude that the cabinet exceeded its authority in authorising the contract.”

Mr Acton Davis acknowledged he had “some difficulty” over whether officers had identified how to pay compensation should the plant not get planning permission.

He said he would have expected officers to have “at least considered” whether the council could pay that and identify the funds, but had found no evidence they had.

But, he said the officer explanation was it had not been forseen there might be a change of mind, that the risk of planning failure was low and that, before May this year, the council had sufficient reserves to pay compensation.

He said: “Ultimately, it is a matter for the current administration whether they accept that explanation as adequate.

“For my part, although I found this aspect difficult, it seems to me that in circumstances where there were sufficient funds available, officers cannot be faulted for not identifying a problem which did not exist.”

The issue of the availability of funds for compensation has become a political hot potato in recent months. The county council voted by 40 votes to 38 in October to agree a revised project plan for the incinerator, ensuring it remains in the pipeline, despite the government cancelling a PFI grant worth £169m, which would have helped pay for its running.

Some councillors were unhappy officers had presented advice that the council, had it terminated the contract, would have had to quickly find compensation of £20m plus and that services would suffer as a result.

George Nobbs, leader of Norfolk County Council, said: “We accept Mr Acton Davis’s conclusions and expect everybody else to do the same.”

• Click here to read the report by Jonathan Acton Davis, QC, and here to read the appendix.

• See tomorrow’s EDP for a special investigation into the 11th hour change of mind on the incinerator and how unelected officials were given votes in behind closed doors meetings.

17 comments

  • I trust that everyone will write to Gnobbs and book their place at the next Cabinet meeting so that they may vote on matters. No, not you Councillors, just the people who have no democratic remit to vote on matters at the Council. Because that is the way that the County Council works in Norfolk. It is like North Korea. If Gnobbs has any uncles I bet they are really worried.

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    alecto

    Tuesday, December 17, 2013

  • The answer lies not in the answer but the question. The advice that the QC would have given would have depended totally on the questions he was asked to answer. Are we to see the original consultation? Perhaps that can be seen on discovery when a private prosecution is brought against the Council for that must surely follow if all the information is not supplied.

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    alecto

    Monday, December 16, 2013

  • The remit for the QC was akin to a cat looking for, and finding the least dirty corner to do its business. I have no confidence in Cllr. Nobbs lack lustre leadership and skewwidth bending of democratic principles. So the QC said it was fine that our representatives sat on the council without being informed on the issue, without debating it and without making an informed decision on the issue. This would mean that we do not need the current set up of councillors and councils, because they are not there to represent us, but to rubberstamp some cabals decision to pollute thousands of people's life's. This is proof that local Government does not care much about heavy metal pollution or crooks running such backward plants, that the economics are irrelevant and over capacity does not matter, as long as we cough up for it. Time to stop paying for it.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Tuesday, December 17, 2013

  • PS I wonder if the EDP had the JAD report Friday or Saturday to enable them to use, selected quotes, from it to mitigate issues it was highlighting within its investigation as to whether NCC is fit for purpose?

    Report this comment

    Canary Boy

    Tuesday, December 17, 2013

  • Even independent reports cannot find anything wrong. The anti incinerator case becomes weaker every hour.

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    Dickens

    Tuesday, December 17, 2013

  • A lot of the case against the efw is about the emissions. Google Crymlin Burrows and Dargavel to read about emissions problems at those efw sites. Not exactly the same systems as The Willows,but they show how long potentialy harmful emissions can be allowed to continue before action is taken. The Planning Enquiry report will be more interesting than this one as it allowed freedom of expression.

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    bedoomed

    Monday, December 16, 2013

  • If you employed a QC and paid the bill you would expect he would act in your interest. I dear say if the KLWIN or BCKLWN had wasted there money on a QC the results would of been in their favour. Sorry its not worth the paper it written on, the QC did as he was instructed but he was not going to go against his client.

    Report this comment

    Sweet cheeks

    Tuesday, December 17, 2013

  • This report, and its appendix, were only released at 6.00pm today. I would caution anyone against forming a view - including Dan Grimmer - without patiently reading though all 90 plus pages, and bearing in mind the limited remit that NCC gave to its author. Such a report may well have reached different conclusions had it been commissioned by a body other than NCC.

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    John Martin

    Monday, December 16, 2013

  • One aspect of this whole sorry affair that needs answering is why the employees voted on the incinerator. This horrendous departure from the democratic path lies at the feet of the Tories but Gnobbs has made it so much worse by allowing this appalling situation to exist without question. Anyone with even one small democratic bone in their body would have immediately opened an enquiry into this wicked abuse. And has this barrister investigated this? Was he asked to? Did he think it was a smashing idea that unelected individuals were given votes? Does he think it is a good idea for this method of arriving at a conclusion? Would he like to see it rolled out further? Would he like to see unelected odd bods vote in the House of Commons? Would any of you? For this has happened here and anyone who has not objected to it should hang their heads in shame and sack those employees who took it upon themselves to vote this incinerator contract into being. That is if there are any of those employees left who have not taken the gap.

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    alecto

    Monday, December 16, 2013

  • Well I'm blowed the QC found nothing had been done underhand or illegal. How about drawing a line under this sorry affair be for the anti lot start spinning to fit their corner and cost us another £100'000 every time they say it has been done illegal up pops a QC not so load more words £100 grand thank you ? I wonder???

    Report this comment

    Tractor4

    Monday, December 16, 2013

  • While the report can be said to clear officers of wrong doing relating to the contract I am afraid, if read in full, it can be clearly seen that members have a great deal to answer for! The QC's remit was woefully inadequate but his report is very useful as it lays down issues that, although not in his remit to investigate, should be closely scrutinised by anyone who really wants to get to the bottom of the mire that is County Hall.

    Report this comment

    Canary Boy

    Tuesday, December 17, 2013

  • GNobbs statement at the end of this article says every.thing about him. Anyone who has analysed the QCs report can see how narrow was the remit given to him by NCC. To take this report at its face value is all well and good but the' devil lies in the detail' and the QC has admitted it was not in his brief to examine many of the areas of contention. Remember you get what you pay for!! The murky areas have not been touched. It is indicative of the culture of the NCC that this report should have had to have been called for in the first place if transparency had been the practice in the beginning none of this expense would have been necessary. No Nobbs, you are leading an unsavory council and I hope that the more enlightened members will continue to scrutinise even if ridiculed by those who wish only to turn up and draw their expenses and continue to be spoon-fed by the unelected members.

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    maryjane

    Tuesday, December 17, 2013

  • Right then NIMBYs, time to put a sock in it.

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    christoph

    Monday, December 16, 2013

  • "We accept.....and expect everybody else to do the same". How blooming rude and arrogant. Excuse me Mr Nobbs if I form my own considered view or has power corrupted you so much that you have forgotten how things work ln a democracy. At the moment I am highly sceptical as to the worth of this report.

    Report this comment

    guella

    Tuesday, December 17, 2013

  • I suppose NCC wants to claim this report has gone onto the Council's website in the spirit of transparency, rather than the heavily delayed route through January's Cabinet via McNeill's black pen that had been planned? Couldn’t possibly be called a quality independent investigation, when the report shows the QC has just accepted NCC's word for all answers, but then it goes to shows the services of anyone are bought and paid for.

    Report this comment

    Honest John

    Monday, December 16, 2013

  • Is Mr Acton Davis not aware of the risk register? Why does he think it exists? Why does he think it was acceptable for this escapade of the Tories and the employees not to be on that register? Is he saying that the register is unnecessary? Seems like it to me. Ingo makes an important point. If we are to have unelected odd bod civil servants voting (it was decided a long time ago that throughout all of government this should NOT be allowed to happen) then indeed we should dispose of councillors. If they cannot defend one of the most important tenets of democracy that of the people voting for representatives and those representatives then voting on behalf of their constituents then councillors should become history. Especially this scurvy bunch who don't understand democracy and probably cant even spell it.

    Report this comment

    alecto

    Tuesday, December 17, 2013

  • The anti brigade must be feeling a wee bit 'miffed' now that their own independent report has concluded that no wrong doing, intentional or by error, was carried out by planning officers. Perhaps it's now time to establish exactly what risks are posed by incineration as opposed to landfill or shipping the waste abroad. As it stands far too much weight has been given to the pseudo science propagated by the anti campaigners and not enough to facts, and that includes the dangers posed by landfill.

    Report this comment

    Bad Form

    Monday, December 16, 2013

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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