Documents released by GCC just before Christmas reveal for the first time that the lifetime cost of the Javelin Park Incinerator is set to top £600m, after the Cabinet secretly agreed to a 30% increases in costs when renegotiating the contract in 2015/16.
The project, which was originally forecast to save the Council £1.2m over its first three years is now set to cost at least £800,000 more than the alternatives over the same period: robbing the budget of resources needed to pay for schools, social care and environmental improvement.
Councillors, who were not told about the cost increases when asked to vote on the project in 2015, issued a cross-party open letter on Monday 7th January calling for an independent inquiry.
Cllr Rachel Smith, Leader of the Green Group at Gloucestershire County Council, said “Because information on the contract costs and structure has been withheld from Councillors for so long, the Council’s own scrutiny processes have failed. We now need an independent inquiry to look at all the evidence fairly, and to learn lessons that can inform the future management of this contract, and protect the council from risks in future contracting processes.”
Cllr Paul Hodgkinson, Leader of the Liberal Democrats at Gloucestershire County Council, said “Since the start of this project Councillors have asked for accurate information on costs – but were denied the facts, even when asked to vote on the project. Now that GCC have finally been forced into dropping their legal challenges to disclosure, we can see what they were trying to hide. A 30% cost increase in 3 years is outrageous, and leaves big questions to be answered about whether this project can ever be value for money.”
David Drew, MP for Stroud said “From the start of this ill advised project the people of Gloucestershire have relied on the work of local campaigners to force some openness on the Council. What’s revealed about the nature of the contract by FOI is truly scandalous.
For my part, as MP for Stroud, I am determined to pursue this matter at Parliamentary level and will be seeking an adjournment debate in House of Commons as a matter of urgency.”
Local campaigners from NoMoInGlo and eXtinction Rebellion will gather outside the construction site of the Incinerator on Tuesday morning to draw attention to the cost increase, and to join the calls for an independent inquiry.
Local Green Party activist, Tim Davies, who led the most recent FOI battle for documents to be disclosed said: “It is the structure of this contract which is really outrageous. It places all the risk on the authority by guaranteeing payments of almost £190/tonne for 108,000 tonnes/year for the next 25 years. Last year, around 130,000 tonnes went to landfill: but with recent government policies on waste and with local action it is quite possible we will reduce our residual waste below the 108,000 tonne figure that the contract locks us into. The less we burn, the most expensive the project. But even if the incinerator is used at full capacity, it still costs more than alternatives available today. The way the contract is structured creates a tax on recycling, and lumps costs on future generations.
It looked bad when we saw the earlier contract at £150/tonne: but now at £190/tonne, even when electricity generation is taken into account, it is simply beyond belief that this deal could be in the public interest.”
Independent Auditors to the Council, who have had access to the newly released documents for the last year, have still not signed off their Value for Money statement following concerns raised about the Incinerator project.
Visit www.javelinparkinquiry.org.uk for more information.