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Norfolk County Council denies claims pension funds are being invested in incineration

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A row has broken out over claims that Norfolk County Council pension funds are being invested in companies which support waste incineration.

Campaigners have accused the authority of breaking public trust and its own anti-incineration policy.

But officials say there are "no plans" to either invest in companies supporting the use of the technology in the county, or change the current stance.

Incineration remains a sensitive issue in West Norfolk nearly five years after controversial plans for a burner on the edge of Lynn were finally dropped.

Campaigners say they are worried about the possibility of an incinerator plan being revived, five years after one on this site at Saddlebow was dropped
Campaigners say they are worried about the possibility of an incinerator plan being revived, five years after one on this site at Saddlebow was dropped

Since then, the county council has adopted a policy ruling out the method as a means of dealing with the county's waste.

But critics say they are worried that uncertainty in overseas markets, as well as a forthcoming move back to a cabinet system of governance at County Hall, increases the risk of a similar scheme being proposed in the future.

The issue was raised on Thursday at a meeting of West Norfolk Council, whose leadership was urged to act.

In an emotional speech, Charles Joyce said he could not trust an administration which allowed such investments to happen in spite of the overwhelming opposition expressed by borough residents in a local poll in 2011.

But leader Brian Long, who is also a county councillor, said he would not be protesting about the issue.

He said: "There are obviously commercial organisations across the country who have trading arms in all manner of different things that some may find not appropriate.

"You can have a totally ethical investment strategy but it doesn’t always garner the best returns.

"My concern is all those who pay in get the very best return for the retirement they’ve worked hard for."

In a statement, issued after the meeting, Norfolk County Council said it had “no plans to invest pension funds in any company that would develop an incinerator in the county.”

A spokesman added: “The county council has no plans to change its policies regarding waste disposal and no plans to support the development of an incinerator in Norfolk.”

But the King's Lynn Without Incineration campaign group, which played a critical role in the fight against the Saddlebow scheme, said any move to invest in companies supporting incineration would be "betraying taxpayers' trust", and the public had a right to know about it.

The group pointed out that the authority had been required to pay out £34 million in compensation over the failure of the previous scheme.

And it added: "We are ready and able to defend West Norfolk against the threat of outdated and environmentally damaging waste incineration as well as hold Norfolk County Council to account."

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