Public inquiry demand over King’s Lynn incinerator contract terms

No Caption ABCDE ANL-140704-144944001
No Caption ABCDE ANL-140704-144944001
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The Government should pay some of the bill left behind after the Lynn incinerator contract was cancelled, Norfolk County Council chiefs have claimed.

Following Monday’s decision to terminate the deal with Cory Wheelabrator, the authority has formally asked the county’s MPs to lobby ministers for help to meet the estimated £30 million compensation cost.

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But opponents have called for an inquiry into how the contract, including its provision for compensation, was drawn up.

In a letter to North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham, county council leader George Nobbs called for a grant to be made available, so that further cuts do not have to be made to services.

Although the council has set aside £19 million towards paying the compensation, and another £3 million has been found following an underspend, Mr Nobbs said another £8 million was still needed.

And he wrote: “It is a matter of fact that the removal of a government grant worth £169 million for the project and the continuing delay in determining the planning application has resulted in the value for money of the project declining to the point where we had no real choice but to make the decision we made.”

It is expected that plans for the council to find the remaining money will be brought before council leaders next month.

Mr Bellingham told the Lynn News yesterday: “I will be in touch with the government, but we need to see the contract.”

He said he understood the original agreement between the council and the consortium had contained dates that could not be met and suggested that meant it could be contested legally.

He also dismissed Mr Nobbs’ claim that his statements about the contract could be misleading, describing it as “nonsense.”

He added: “Let’s work together to mitigate the loss.”

Meanwhile, a leading academic has called for a public inquiry into the way the contract was drawn up.

Dr Chris Edwards, a research associate from the University of East Anglia and a leading figure in the campaign against the incinerator, said council claims that they were following government guidelines were not good enough.

He said: “Even if this were the case, it should have been rejected as being far too risky to the council and far too generous to Cory Wheelabrator.”

Dave Dennis, the GMB union’s Lynn branch secretary, added: “I served for more than 30 years in local government and never did I experience a penalty clause in favour of contractors. Contractors who bid for council contracts did so at their own expense.

“If the contractor wanted public money in their efforts to secure a contract then they, in my opinion, were not suitable. Officers and councillors should protect the ratepayer’s interests.