County leader admits there “doesn’t seem to be any way out” of proposed incinerator in west Norfolk
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The new leader of Norfolk County Council has claimed there 'doesn't seem to be any way out' of the proposed incinerator in west Norfolk.
The admission comes after it was revealed that the £90m it could cost to cancel a contract for the incinerator would result in around £50m being cut directly from the council's budget.
George Nobbs, leader of the Labour group at County Hall, had asked for clarification following the publication of a report this week which outlined the potential costs of the incinerator plans being scrapped.
A briefing paper, written by the county council's head of finances Paul Brittain, was sent to councillors yesterday.
Mr Brittain summarised that pulling the plug on the incinerator would: 'Be of such a scale as to have very significant adverse impact on both day-to-day services and the current sound financial standing of the council.'
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He said £40m of council reserves could be used to help meet the £90m – which would mean reserves would have to be replenished at £12m a year – as well as £50m of in-year service savings across Norfolk.
This would also be on top of savings of £68m planned for 2014/15 and £144m for between 2014 and 2017.
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The report rules out the council borrowing to meet that cost.
Mr Nobbs said: 'I was absolutely determined this information should be made available not just to other councillors but to the public because this issue has been rumbling on for some years now.
'I think the council is going to have to think very long and very hard about what recommendation they come up with. With the contract was signed, as we said at the time, it will be terribly difficult to go back on it.
'If you look at Paul Brittain's figures, there doesn't seem to be any way out.'
The potential multi-million bill if Norfolk County Council were to rip up the contract with Cory Wheelabrator for the energy from waste plant at King's Lynn is revealed in a report drawn up by council officers.
Mr Nobbs was voted to head the council last week after an alliance was struck between his party, the UK Independence Party and the Liberal Democrats and all 84 councillors are due to vote on whether to press ahead with the incinerator at a meeting on Monday, June 17.
Before that however the county council's cabinet scrutiny committee will meet on Tuesday to consider the latest report.
Mr Nobbs said of the scrutiny meeting: 'This has been going on for years but we have now come to a head and having spent all this time on it we must not make the mistake of making a rash, snap decision.'
Mr Nobbs also said he was enuring 'rigorous examination' into which details of the contract signed by the previous Conservative council with Cory Wheelabrator can and cannot be revealed publicly.
North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham, who has campaigned against the incinerator, said: 'We have got to a stage where Norfolk County Council officers cannot be trusted and an independent, forensic report (into costs) is needed.'
Attempts to contact Conservative leader Bill Borrett were unsuccessful.