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Gloucestershire Business News

Council told it must disclose more details of incinerator deal

Gloucestershire County Council has been ordered to release more financial details about the controversial £500 million waste incinerator currently under construction.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has 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 ICO has given the county council 35 days to disclose the information.

County councillor Jeremy Hilton, Liberal Democrat group spokesperson on waste disposal said: "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 control the council continued to pursue the incinerator project. The plant is now under construction and is expected to be operational in 2019.

"The secrecy around the contract with UBB is a matter of deep concern. That is why I am pleased to support the Information Commissioner's decision that more details within the contract must be made public.

"It is right that the county council should release information such as on the contract tonnage, the base price per tonne of waste supplied to the incinerator and information related to the sale of electricity.

"I would hope that county council accepts the Information Commissioner's decision. The administration must not appeal against the decision."

The county council says the new incinerator, which will produce electricity from the waste burnt, will enable it to process waste which would previously gone to landfill using a non-toxic and clean method.

But objectors claim there is a pollution risk and have campaigned vigorously against the new plant.

A spokesperson for Gloucestershire County Council, said: "We recognise the public interest in this matter and have complied with all previous Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) requests, however 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 will be going through the latest ICO ruling and will respond to it in due course.

"The new energy from waste facility is on schedule to open next year. It will save taxpayers over £100 million, power 25,000 homes, and help us to reach our aim of 70 per cent recycling across Gloucestershire."

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