Row after Norfolk council leaders write letters supporting King’s Lynn incinerator
Leaders of district councils around Norfolk have sent letters to the Environment Secretary in an attempt to convince her to release millions of pounds to fund an incinerator in King's Lynn.
But the letters have sparked anger, with opposition councillors questioning what right leaders have to support the bid without first consulting their own councils.
Cabinet minister Caroline Spelman revealed last month she would be withholding �169m of Private Finance Initiative Norfolk County Council wants to go towards the �500m cost of the incinerator at Saddlebow.
She told County Hall she wanted to see more evidence of 'broad support' for the county's proposed waste strategy, and that has led to the letters from leaders of some of the councils signed up to the Norfolk Waste Partnership. The leaders say they back the Joint Municipal Waste Strategy, which includes the incinerator plan, and call for Ms Spelman to make the PFI credits available.
Letters have been sent by John Fuller, leader of South Norfolk Council, Andrew Proctor, leader of Broadland District Council and Helen Eales, leader of North Norfolk District Council.
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William Nunn, leader of Breckland Council, has also penned a letter in his capacity as chairman of the Norfolk Waste Partnership, although Norwich City Council leader Brenda Arthur has not sent a letter on behalf of City Hall. It is not clear if Great Yarmouth Borough Council have sent a letter.
But Murray Gray, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrat group at South Norfolk Council, has sent his own letter to Ms Spelman, venting his anger at the approach of his leader.
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He accused the letter writers of following a template, suggesting it was provided by the county council, and said his council or its cabinet had not debated the issue of the King's Lynn plant, incineration or to the alternatives to it in the past five years.
He said: 'I therefore strongly believe that the leader of the council exceeded his authority under the South Norfolk Council constitution in stating that South Norfolk Council 'supports the Willows proposal' and requesting that 'PFI credits are confirmed without further delay'.'
But Mr Fuller said he had executive authority to write the letter and had discussed the issue with members of his cabinet.
He said: 'This was a letter restating our support for the existing policy of working with other councils to address how to deal with half a million of waste a year.
'We understand people have strong feelings about the incinerator issue, but councils have to maximise recycling, while minimising what goes into landfill.'
He said the county council had encouraged members of the Norfolk Waste Partnership to write to Ms Spelman, but said he had not been provided with a template for the letter.
Officers at West Norfolk Council, which held a poll in which 65,000 people said they did not want the incinerator, this summer started moves which would effectively see the authority withdraw from the Norfolk Waste Partnership.
Nick Daubney, leader of West Norfolk Council, said he had sent his own letter to Ms Spelman urging her to see through the attempt to prove a consensus.
In it he pointed out that 66pc of parish councils were against the incinerator, that the business case did not stack up and that the scheme was not good value for money. He said: 'Ms Spelman was very clear in what evidence she wanted to be provided and I hope she will see through letters from four or five council leaders for what it is.'
Earlier this month a High Court judge dismissed an attempt by campaigners to get a judicial review into the county council's decision to award a contract for the incinerator to Cory Wheelabrator.
The EDP revealed last week how all seven Conservative MPs in the county had signed and sent a formal letter of complaint to County Hall Conservative leader Derrick Murphy, after the council's deputy leader Ian Mackie wrote to them warning Ms Spelman's decision to hold back PFI credits could mean money was not available for projects in their constituencies.
Mr Murphy said the letter was not intended to be threatening in any way.