The government has rejected calls for it to help to pay the compensation bill left behind by the decision to cancel the Lynn incinerator contract.
The decision was revealed in a letter, released by Norfolk County Council late this afternoon, Wednesday, May 21, the same day that it deferred a decision on whether it will sell the site of the proposed plant to West Norfolk Council.
Following last month’s decision to cancel the contract with Cory Wheelabrator, county officials lobbied the government for help to pay the compensation required in the contract, which is now estimated to be around £34 million.
But, in a letter to its leader, George Nobbs, local government minister Baroness Stowell said it would be “inappropriate” for national taxpayers to pay Norfolk’s bill.
She said the details of the contract, and any penalty clauses in it, were an issue for the parties directly involved.
And she added: “It is for the local authority to assess the risks and benefits of any local contract prior to agreeing to it.”
In response, Mr Nobbs said: “This puts to bed once and and for all the frequent and various suggestions from Henry Bellingham MP that the government would help the county council if it agreed to terminate the contract.”
Mr Bellingham said he was disappointed, but not surprised by the decision, because of the precedent any move to help Norfolk may have set.
And he accused Mr Nobbs of seeking to play a “blame game” on the issue.
“We’ve got to accept the fact it was always going to be difficult to persuade the government to come up with the money”, he said.
News of the decision emerged on the same day that the county’s cabinet, meeting for the last time before the council reverts to a committee system next week, deferred a decision on whether to sell the Saddlebow site to the borough council.
The county council’s cabinet scrutiny committee voted by nine to three to recommend the issue was reviewed during a meeting on Tuesday, following a call-in request by West Norfolk representatives Brian Long, John Dobson and Jason Law.
But a report on the proposal will now be prepared for the new environment, development and transport and policy and resources committees to consider in due course.
Borough council leader Nick Daubney said he was not surprised at the decision, but pledged to continue to pursue a deal that he believes is vital to both secure local control of the site and build bridges between the borough and county authorities.
He said: “We’ll go on negotiating and trying to achieve a positive result, but if ever there was a time we need to see leadership at county, it’s now.”
It has also emerged that proposals for how to find the additional money needed to meet the compensation bill will go before the full county council when it meets next Tuesday.
The meeting will also consider a motion by Mr Dobson, calling for work to start a new waste policy, based on smaller. local facilities instead of “industrial scale” plants and plans to be brought forward within six months.