Resignations in waste row
- Credit: IAN BURT
A borough council leader has denied a split in his ruling group after two of its leading members resigned in protest at claims some of the area's waste might be sent to neighbouring counties to be incinerated.
The dramatic resignations came as members of West Norfolk Borough Council met to discuss the signing of a new combined waste contract for the county, which is due to come into force next spring.
The Norfolk Waste Partnership (NWP) extends the types of waste which can be recycled in people's homes to include more plastics and glass and would mean up to 30,000 tonnes more waste across the county would be re-used.
However, some waste which cannot be recycled would be sent to a cement kiln in northern Lincolnshire.
This has led to anger because West Norfolk Council has been so opposed to separate plans by Norfolk County Council to build an incinerator in King's Lynn.
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Paul Foster, who was elected to represent West Winch ward for the Conservatives in 2010 and was also North-West Norfolk Conservative Association's treasurer, wrote to his Tory colleagues ahead of the meeting to say: 'I cannot as a matter of principle and conscience vote to allow waste to be unnecessarily burnt in a neighbouring county.'
He was followed by former West Norfolk mayor Mike Pitcher, who said that he had gone into the council chamber with an 'open mind' but could not support a new waste contract which he claimed would see rubbish transported to Lincolnshire to be burned.
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He stood up and walked across the chamber to sit with independents as his fellow councillors watched in silence.
Both went on to suggest that they believed other Conservative councillors felt the same way as them and had voted to support the new Norfolk-wide contract with Norse Commercial Services, despite misgivings.
Nick Daubney, the council leader, said the contract, which the council eventually voted in favour of, did not definitively prohibit incineration but that it did state that incineration of any material must be discouraged and that parties involved should seek to avoid it.
He confirmed that currently a small amount of material, about 1,100 tonnes, is dealt with differently because it could not go through the usual recycling system.
However he said the 1,100 tonne amount would be reduced further by the new contract.
He added: 'From when the new contract is signed, we will have a place at the table and we will therefore be able to take part in those decisions,' referring to choices about how the remainder of waste is dealt with.
'I'm sorry they felt the need to resign but I'm afraid it's the culmination of a long-running argument really.
'I'm afraid not all is smoothness within the family and these two have felt the need to go. I'm sorry about it but we've set our stall out of where we want to go and I believe it's the right strategy.'
However ex-Labour group leader Charles Joyce, whose party tabled an amendment calling on the signing of the new contract to be delayed until councillors had been told how waste that could not be recycled or sent to landfill would be dealt with, claimed there was a split within the Conservative group which cannot now be repaired.
In a letter to his fellow Conservative group members before Thursday's full council meeting, Mr Foster said: 'As the leader will not allow me to represent the wishes of the people, I have decided that the people must always come before the party. I will sit as an independent.'
Mr Foster and Mr Pitcher's resignations of the Tory whip mean that, under Conservative Party rules, they are automatically expelled from the party. They will both sit as independents on the council.