Norfolk incinerator compensation hike sparks fresh row over burner

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

Friday, February 7, 2014
6:30 AM

A fresh row has erupted over the controversial incinerator proposed for Norfolk, after councillors claimed they had been kept in the dark over the rising cost of possible compensation for the plant.

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A decision on whether to grant planning permission for the incinerator at Saddlebow, which the county council awarded a contract to Cory Wheelabrator to run, has yet to be made by communities secretary Eric Pickles.

That delay has infuriated the administration at County Hall, who say their budget planning has been made much more difficult because, if planning permission is not secured, Cory Wheelabrator could claim compensation.

And papers presented to a recent meeting of Norfolk County Council’s cabinet revealed that the cost of that compensation would increase after May 1.

The figure is currently a potential £26m, but the report by interim head of finance Peter Timmins shows after the start of May, that will increase by £5m to £31m.

The council is building up a ‘war chest’ of £19m, but councillors who have opposed the incinerator said that figure should have been revealed before a crucial vote on whether to press ahead with a revised project plan for the incinerator.

Last October, the council voted by 40 votes to 38 to agree a revised project plan for the £500m plant and anti-incinerator campaigners say that vote might have been different if councillors had known the possible compensation cost would increase in May.

Retired solicitor John Martin, from Great Witchingham, emailed David Harrison, cabinet member for waste and the environment, to make that point.

Mr Harrison replied that the issue was identified in a public report on October 29 last year and added: “The members were all e-mailed about the revised project plan and its various scenarios before the full council meeting”.

But Mr Martin then emailed other councillors to ask which of them were aware that the possible compensation would rise to £31m after May.

Among those who said they were not aware of the uplift were Fred Agnew (UKIP), Andrew Boswell (Green), Brian Long (Conservative), Richard Bird (Independent), Jason Law (Conservative), Stan Hebborn (UKIP), Colin Aldred (UKIP), John Dobson (Conservative), Paul Gilmour (UKIP), Alexandra Kemp (Labour) and Tim East (Liberal Democrat).

Mr East, who represents Costessey, said: “Had officers made councillors aware of this possibility concerning this potential uplift in their report before its meeting on October 28, I think the decision may well have gone the other way.”

The council said in the report to full council, it stated that “the actual contract price at the time of financial close could increase or decrease”.

A spokesman said, in the cabinet report for the following day’s meeting, it stated that the compensation figure would “have to be revisited” if the project continued to be delayed beyond spring this year.

The council said those details were available before the full council meeting, where the vote was taken and that group leaders were briefed ahead of the council debate, while there were more details in ‘pink papers’ which only members were able to see.

The spokesman said a report to cabinet in November also referred to the compensation payment increasing from May 2014 onwards.

They added putting a figure on the potential size of the increase was not possible at an earlier stage and that the £31m was an indicative figure used for budget setting.

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

20 comments

  • Why doesn’t NCC get a few £million from each of the District Councils who sat back in silence after their Leaders wrote to Spelman pledging support for the incinerator in order to get the PFI funding? Why should the actions of these people be overlooked, after all, the contract was only signed once the PFI was awarded, isn't that every reason those individuals should also be held accountable for the financial mess the County’s in?

    Report this comment

    Honest John

    Sunday, February 9, 2014

  • Why was it only in the pink papers? Why was it not made public. Typical of NCC.

    Report this comment

    Bikerboy

    Friday, February 7, 2014

  • The conservatives don't need a waste incinerator they have enough trouble with the bedroom tax, food banks on the increase, vicious cuts to benefits for disabled, children's services and schools failing. Voters are not stupid we will not put up with being run by a bunch of gangsters for the bankers.£650 million to burn recyclable materials says it all !!!!

    Report this comment

    Jack

    Saturday, February 8, 2014

  • One has to remember that at least five members of this council have some reading difficulties and we must be patient. Couple that with the fact that very few understand what is going on and only turn up to say what they are advised to and one forms a more accurate picture.

    Report this comment

    Mrs Willingale

    Friday, February 7, 2014

  • Councillors are always in the dark. You can't actually give them any real info or power because they are only ordinary people. Ten minutes before they are elected they are plumbers, double glazing sellers and shop assistants and ten minutes later they are known as Councillor Puffshirt. Underneath they are still common tradesmen and shop people though. You can't give that sort any responsibility which is why they are kept in the dark. Surely everyone knows this ?

    Report this comment

    Inactive account

    Friday, February 7, 2014

  • I was at that meeting and I have no recollection of any mention of an extra £5m during the debate of Full Council. Given that Mr Timmins was prepared to stand by his figures and was already shrieking about bankruptcy, doom and general destruction I fail to understand why he only gave part of the picture and this element was not made more prominent. For my own part, I prefer to think that this was deliberately covered up because Cabinet already knew that this revelation would have swung the vote the other way... (I wonder why the usually efficient PR department also missed it too?)

    Report this comment

    User Removed

    Friday, February 7, 2014

  • What time commitment have the new Councillors given to Norfolk since last May? Full meetings every two months, the committees they are on and attendance at District and Parish Council meetings, and time to read voluminous reports...the list goes on. And how much support and how quickly do they get it from Officers? It must have been a huge learning curve for many, do any regret getting elected?

    Report this comment

    bedoomed

    Friday, February 7, 2014

  • They do need to do something because Gnobbs and his labour cohorts are getting bored. They might even start attacking each other. Oh that's right. It's start happening already.

    Report this comment

    alecto

    Saturday, February 8, 2014

  • This matter is already dealt with by Pickles. He`s not stupid.

    Report this comment

    democrat

    Friday, February 7, 2014

  • And exactly this noncholance in Cllr.s has to change, Ms Willingale, because they are there to represent us and take an interest, not just lift their pinkies and say yes and amen to everything put in front of them. Any compensation to CW should be fought and those who signed such favourable financial agreements with PFI contracts should be investigated and held responsible for being deliberately spendthrift with our money. This investigation should look at all PFI contracs taken in Norfolk so we can learn the lessons and find better financial arangements in future.

    Report this comment

    ingo wagenknecht

    Friday, February 7, 2014

  • Yet there you were a few months ago, boasting about how you had told the anti campaign that councillors were the key to everything. Make your mind up!

    Report this comment

    User Removed

    Friday, February 7, 2014

  • Brother GNobbs seems to have forgotten his party roots these days. I remain hopeful that he gets whipped into shape sooner or later.

    Report this comment

    User Removed

    Saturday, February 8, 2014

  • All of this need not have happened if only Murphy and his sidekicks listened to the evidence against the incinerator in the first place. I also recall the portfolio holder (Ann somoneorother) saying "We won't force an incinerator on you if you don't want it". They should have stuck to their word but, as we know to our cost, the council have consistently lied to the public and their own councillors . If the final costs wreck the council it will be because of the council itself. Why not have an emergency meeting before May and cancel it now?

    Report this comment

    Carborundum

    Friday, February 7, 2014

  • All of this need not have happened if only Murphy and his sidekicks listened to the evidence against the incinerator in the first place. I also recall the portfolio holder (Ann somoneorother) saying "We won't force an incinerator on you if you don't want it". They should have stuck to their word but, as we know to our cost, the council have consistently lied to the public and their own councillors . If the final costs wreck the council it will be because of the council itself. Why not have an emergency meeting before May and cancel it now?

    Report this comment

    Carborundum

    Friday, February 7, 2014

  • All of this need not have happened if only Murphy and his sidekicks listened to the evidence against the incinerator in the first place. I also recall the portfolio holder (Ann somoneorother) saying "We won't force an incinerator on you if you don't want it". They should have stuck to their word but, as we know to our cost, the council have consistently lied to the public and their own councillors . If the final costs wreck the council it will be because of the council itself. Why not have an emergency meeting before May and cancel it now?

    Report this comment

    Carborundum

    Friday, February 7, 2014

  • Huge sums of our money ill-spent and all to get nowhere! Please alert me on the day that councilsgovernment spend my money wisely. Not holding my breath.

    Report this comment

    Patrick

    Friday, February 7, 2014

  • All of this need not have happened if only Murphy and his sidekicks listened to the evidence against the incinerator in the first place. I also recall the portfolio holder (Ann somoneorother) saying "We won't force an incinerator on you if you don't want it". They should have stuck to their word but, as we know to our cost, the council have consistently lied to the public and their own councillors . If the final costs wreck the council it will be because of the council itself. Why not have an emergency meeting before May and cancel it now?

    Report this comment

    Carborundum

    Friday, February 7, 2014

  • These excuses by NCC sound pretty flimsy. “The actual contract price at the time of financial close could increase or decrease”. This refers to the risk of delaying entering into the contract in the first place, and has nothing to do with compensation for planning failure. “The compensation figure would have to be revisited”. That statement appears in a report intended for the Cabinet meeting on the following day. Were backbenchers intended to devour the contents of that, as well as the lengthy reports prepared for the full Council meeting? Even if they were, it hardly sounded an explicit warning. “A report to Cabinet in November also referred to the compensation payment increasing”. That hardly helps, coming some weeks later. “Putting a figure on the potential size of the increase was not possible at an earlier stage”. Why not? The officers seemed to have no trouble in putting figures on every other possible outcome of the vote.

    Report this comment

    Nemesis

    Friday, February 7, 2014

  • The conservatives don't need a waste incinerator they have enough trouble with the bedroom tax, food banks on the increase, vicious cuts to benefits for disabled, children's services and schools failing. Voters are not stupid we will not put up with being run by a bunch of gangsters for the bankers.£650 million to burn recyclable materials says it all !!!!

    Report this comment

    Jack

    Saturday, February 8, 2014

  • Nothing to worry about. Eric will do the decent thing for the Tories and undermine UKIP's up and coming support in this May's European elections, as well as in the District elections the same day. He will refuse the planning permission, before May, and the headline will be 'Eric Pickles saves Norfolk 5 million and gets it out of a pickle'.

    Report this comment

    ingo wagenknecht

    Friday, February 7, 2014

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

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