Leader appeals to David Cameron for help in finding £30 million after King’s Lynn incinerator was cancelled

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The leader of Norfolk County Council has written to the Prime Minister to ask for help in finding the £30 million costs after the Lynn incinerator was cancelled.

George Nobbs has appealed to David Cameron to help the authority out of a financial mess after the contract with Cory Wheelabrator to build and run the £610 million incinerator was cancelled last month.

The £30 million costs includes £20 million compensation to Cory and £1.6 million public inquiry costs.

Here is a copy of the letter sent to Mr Cameron on Wednesday:

“Dear Prime Minister,

“I am writing to you in order to ask for your help with a serious financial problem that my Council has had to deal with as a result of the actions of a previous Council administration here and the inaction of your Secretary of State for Communities.

“Norfolk County Council embarked on delivering a ‘solution to waste’ scheme in 2003, which, by the very nature of an infrastructure project, is complex and requires an unwavering commitment over a period of time.

“The first scheme failed because the contract did not represent value for money. The second scheme, initially approved by Government departments, has recently failed. The reason is essentially the same value for money difficulty, though there is a difference. In the first scheme it was the market that did not produce a competitive price; for the second scheme it was the elongation of a Government decision that moved the contract into a negative return.

“The consequence is that the Council is having to pay just over £30m for the failure to proceed, and will now have to embark on a third scheme, with further costs to be met. Delivery of the third scheme will be blighted by the market knowledge of the demise of the previous two schemes.

“The nine Norfolk MPs, all supporters of your government, have spoken warmly of a partnership approach between the Council and Government, and sharing these abortive costs. Henry Bellingham and Norman Lamb have been to the fore, the latter saying on 18 October 2013:

“I have previously asked officials in Defra to help the Council explore ways of funding alternative technologies if plans to build the incinerator are scrapped and I will continue to support NCC in any way I can in developing sustainable waste solutions for the future”.

“While Mr Bellingham himself has spoken so often (and so assuredly) of Government financial support in the event of cancellation that it is almost universally believed in Norfolk that immediate Government assistance to cover the full cost is there for the asking.

“Whilst I do not believe that Mr Bellingham is right in his repeated assertions, I would welcome an offer of assistance from the Government, for the immediate £30m abortive costs, and a conversation on help for the forthcoming costs of a difficult third new scheme. I would also appreciate a reduction in the charge for the continued use of landfill as a consequence of events beyond the Council’s control.

“Throughout this whole business, my administration has had to deal with a contract which was entered into, in good faith, by a previous Conservative Council administration, in the teeth of opposition from all Norfolk’s MPs and the relevant (Conservative-led) District Council. We have throughout done our level best to defend the interest of the people of Norfolk and the Council’s reputation as a body that treats infrastructure projects properly.

“I need hardly remind you of your own remarks made in your recent speech of 22 April: ‘Simplifying the planning system as well, has been another major reform of this government- not always popular; I think a lot of the things that the Chancellor and I do are not popular, but they’re right. Simplifying the planning system, making it faster, is absolutely essential if we’re going to build that infrastructure that the country needs’.

“This contrasts rather oddly with Mr Pickles’ remarks on BBC East on the following day:

Eric Pickles: “It’s controversial, it’s a big scheme. There’s been lots of representation and I think it’s possibly, I hope the council will forgive me for saying so, wholly unrealistic to have expected an immediate rubber stamping of the council’s decision given the amount of controversy, and given the amount of representation”.

Interviewer: “So when will you make that decision?”

Eric Pickles: I will make that decision when I’m satisfied that all the questions have been answered”.

“These remarks come some 2 years after Mr Pickles called the decision in and more than three months since the date of January 14, 2014 which he had announced, in the middle of 2013, as the last date on which he would deliver a decision. Hardly an “immediate rubber stamping!”.

As I have said, I would welcome the opportunity of a conversation with you or a relevant member of your Government about the possibility of financial assistance (so often offered by Mr. Bellingham).

Yours sincerely

George Nobbs

Leader – Norfolk County Council