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Gloucestershire Business News

Council to face key questions over £500m waste incinerator project

Gloucestershire County Council is being asked to answer six key questions about the controversial Javelin Park incinerator.

They will be put by the Liberal Democrats to Cllr Nigel Moor, cabinet member for Fire, Planning and Infrastructure at the full council meeting on June 27.

The questions include the total cost in officer time and legal fees of the council appealing decisions of the Information Commissioner's Office, how many tonnes of household waste will be delivered annually to the incinerator and whether it will be free of harmful emissions.

On June 7 Gloucestershire County Council was ordered to release more financial details about the controversial £500 million waste incinerator currently under construction at Haresfield, near Gloucester.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) ruled that the county council wrongly withheld some of the information relating to its agreement with Urbaser Balfour Beatty (UBB) to develop and run the Javelin Park incinerator next to the M5 at Haresfield.

The ICO said the council had disclosed the majority of the information requested, but not sections of a report "value for money and affordability analysis" written by Ernst & Young LLP.

"The Commissioner's decision is that the council wrongly applied the exemption to some of the information within the report," said the ICO.

It added: "At the heart of the argument are figures such as the price per tonne agreed with UBB, the base tonnages, the gate fee and the budgeted price points for the future sale of third party waste accommodation and the price of electricity to third parties.

"The council argues that that this information is commercially sensitive to UBB and to itself. However the complainant argues that without this information it is impossible to properly judge whether the council has obtained value for money from the development. The Commissioner agrees with the complainant's view."

The council was given 35 days to release the remaining information or to confirm it will be appealing the the ICO decision.

Now Liberal Democrat Cllr Jeremy Hilton has put six questions to the county council meeting.

Cllr Hilton (Kingsholm and Wotton) said: "Gloucestershire's Liberal Democrats fought a long hard campaign at Shire Hall to stop the building of the massive waste incinerator at Javelin Park. Unfortunately, the Tories, who controlled the Cabinet at the time, signed off on the contract with UBB.

"I am very pleased with the Information Commissioner's decision that key information from the latest contract must be made public. This is not the first time that the incinerator project has come before the ICO, with the independent authority ruling against the Tory administration every time. I sincerely hope that the council does not continue to waste already stretched public funds on continuing to fight against revealing more details of this contract to the public that it serves."

A spokesperson for Gloucestershire County Council, said today: "All members questions will be addressed in the public full council meeting on Wednesday 27th June.

"However we recognise the public interest in this matter. We have complied with all previous Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) requests, but the legislation and guidance is unclear. We have to make sure we balance the needs of our contractors for commercial sensitivity with the desire to provide as much information as possible into the public domain.

"It is important for us to make sure that we get the best possible deal for Gloucestershire tax payers. There are details in the contract and the report which could undermine our ability to do this. We are going through the latest ICO ruling and will respond to it in due course."

The six questions being asked by the Liberal Democrats are:

Q1. to Nigel Moor

When will the cabinet member publish an un-redacted copy of the updated contract it has with UBB?

Q2. to Nigel Moor

On what date does the cabinet member expect the Javelin Park incinerator to be fully operational?

Q3. to Nigel Moor

How many tonnes of residual household waste does this council plan to deliver to the Javelin Park incinerator in its first full year of operation?

Q4. to Nigel Moor

What plans are in place to ensure that waste, inadvertently delivered to the incinerator that can be recycled, is not incinerated at the Javelin Park waste processing plant?

Q5. to Nigel Moor

Can you provide an assurance that the flue gases from the incinerator will be free of harmful emissions?

Q6. to Nigel Moor

Can the cabinet member for fire, planning and infrastructure please confirm the total cost in officer time and legal fees with regard to appealing the ICO's determination on the FOI request, reference #FER0682654?

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