Warning that Norfolk incinerator compensation war chest could lead to further service cuts

Could scrapping funding for the burner deter investors from bringing their business to Norfolk?

Could scrapping funding for the burner deter investors from bringing their business to Norfolk? - Credit: Matthew Usher

Further cuts to vital service are on the cards as councillors look to build up a war chest of compensation cash in case Norfolk's proposed incinerator fails to be granted planning permission.

Council leaders warned those cuts would be 'very unpalatable' and that services spared inclusion in the £140m consultation which over cuts currently underway, could yet be for the chop.

The council is facing the prospect of having to pay Cory Wheelabrator - the firm awarded a contract to run the incinerator at King's Lynn - compensation of £26m if the secretary of state decides not to ratify the planning permission for the plant the county council had agreed.

And the council's controlling cabinet yesterday agreed to work towards gathering that money should Eric Pickles say no to the incinerator permission.

Peter Timmins, the interim head of finance, recommended to cabinet that they work, firstly, towards gathering together £11.2m.

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That money could be gathered, Mr Timmins said, by measures such as earmarking £4m from reserves, freezing some spending and deferring new revenue schemes, such as road maintenance.

But the further savings of just under £15m would have to come from revenue budgets, which would mean service cuts.

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George Nobbs, leader of the county council, who once again criticised MPs for lobbying the government to cancel the credits, said: 'The proposals are going to be very unpalatable indeed, but these are cuts some people seems to think we can well afford to make. 'So it is important that we spell them out over the next month. It would be premature to spell them out today, but the public need to be aware they will be extremely unpalatable.'

Dan Roper, cabinet member for public protection, said, in drawing up the proposed savings for the Putting People First consultation to save £140m, there had been a list of possible cuts which the cabinet had pulled back from proposing.

He said: 'We are clearly going to have to go back to that list.'

The cabinet also agreed to lobby the government and MPs over what Mr Nobbs described as the 'extraordinary' decision to take away the credits.

The cabinet last week agreed not to cancel the contract with Cory Wheelabrator, following a recommendation from the full council on a vote of 40 to 38.

The government last month cancelled the waste credits for the plant, which would have been worth £169m over the lifetime of the plant.

At yesterday's cabinet meeting a public question was asked as to why such a contingency had not been drawn up previously , given the compensation costs agreed to in the contract.

In a written response, David Harrison, cabinet member for environment, transport, development and waste, who was not at the meeting because of illness, said: 'I would remind you that the present situation could not have been envisioned as it was brought about by the actions of the government, not this council.

'It would be impossible for the council to proceed in every instance of a major contract by considering whether it will be brought into jeopardy by external factors beyond its control.'

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