West Norfolk Council chief insists he would do waste deal again

Contract Signing, Brian Long (right) (Deputy Leader KL&WNBC) with Robert Billson (left) (Managing Director Material Works) ENGANL00120121213102833
Contract Signing, Brian Long (right) (Deputy Leader KL&WNBC) with Robert Billson (left) (Managing Director Material Works) ENGANL00120121213102833
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The man who signed West Norfolk Council’s waste contract with Material Works has insisted he would do the same thing again, despite the termination of the deal.

Brian Long was questioned on the demise of the contract at Thursday’s full council meeting, the first since the decision was announced 11 days ago.

But, asked whether it was too ambitious for the borough to pursue the deal on its own, he insisted he did not regret the agreement struck in late 2012.

The contract was agreed at the height of the campaign against the proposed Lynn incinerator and only weeks before a public inquiry into that scheme began.

And Mr Long told the meeting: “We made the contract available to all the other districts. There wasn’t the necessity to look at it as the waste was going to be dealt with somewhere else. That somewhere else was King’s Lynn.

“If I could rewind to the position we were in, I would do exactly the same thing again. Sometimes you’ve got to be bold.

“I went to their plant in Chester and saw a very average bag of household waste and saw what came out. I know the technology works.

“What I can’t know and would never know was if the finance was there to deliver it on the scale we wanted.”

Mr Long told members that a key factor in the decision to end the agreement had been the changing attitudes among authorities across Norfolk to waste management.

Speaking to the Lynn News last week, he said the Norfolk Waste Partnership, of which the borough council is a member, was looking at systems which are “not dissimilar” from Material Works’ proposals.

He also indicated that the council could talk to Material Works again if they demonstrated progress towards meeting the conditions of their previous agreement.

He said: “With the direction being taken by our partners, we’re now looking at a far improved technology for how we deal with waste and I think it’s important we’re part of that.”

He also repeated previous council statements that the authority had not spent any money in pursuing the Material Works agreement.

But Labour’s Jim Moriarty said around £3,000 had been spent on the company’s attendance of the public inquiry into the incinerator in 2013 and called for full figures to be looked into and disclosed.

He also accused Mr Long of speaking “out of turn” at a regeneration, environment and community panel meeting last Wednesday, the day before the council meeting, where it was proposed that a working group examining Material Works and other waste management ideas should be disbanded.

And he questioned whether the panel should have known that Mr Long had been given a spokesman’s role in the county council’s Conservative group by its new leader, Cliff Jordan, previously a vocal supporter of the incinerator proposal.

But Mr Long said the position was not paid and his views would not be swayed by any financial benefits.