Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Cabinet votes no to Plan B on Waste

On Monday, I attended the latest meeting of Cornwall Council’s ten-strong ruling Cabinet. One of the items on the agenda was the request from the  Cornwall Waste Forum that, instead of building a £150 million incinerator in Mid Cornwall, the Council should investigate a “high recycling” approach to waste management. The Forum argues that it could save tens of millions of pounds.

A report, written by senior Council officers, was presented to the meeting. It contained a strong recommendation that an “independent assessment” of the “alternative waste management strategy … be not undertaken.”

It was a ridiculously one-sided report. It contained errors, as well as statements which contradicted what councillors had previously been told. Unbelievably, the Cabinet Members failed to notice any of these errors or to challenge any aspects of the report.

The report claimed that an alternative approach “would take eight-nine years to put in place,” with four years needed to develop new planning policies. But this is an absolute fiction and not borne out by what Cornwall Council planners are actually doing!

The report also claimed that smaller waste management sites, as suggested by the Forum, could not be brought forward in a short time-scale because of this “policy situation.” But I was able to point out three sites dealing with waste that had, or were being, developed without any change in policy taking four years. What is more, two of these sites belong to Cornwall Council / SITA … what double-standards!

Also in the report, the cost of terminating the present incinerator waste contract was double that of previous published estimates. I challenged this. I pointed out that because the works on the incinerator had not been commenced by March 2010, the Council had the right to ask for a revised project plan (RPP) or to terminate the contract on a “force majeure” or no-fault basis.

I reminded councillors that a revised project plan, which is simply remodelling the costings for the incinerator, was being produced, but that we had been repeatedly assured that the Council retained the right to a no-fault termination right up until the date that a RPP was agreed. And yet suddenly, we were being told by senior officers that this is not the case and the costs have doubled! I am angered at the levels of misinformation and scaremongering, and I have made a formal complaint to the Council.

The report also had a section outlining “risks,” but there was nothing on the risks of not looking at the Forum’s proposal.

For example, there was nothing on the risk of not investigating an option that could, in the long-term, be the most cost-effective and save millions. And there was nothing about the risk posed by moves to ban the incineration of recyclable materials, as suggested by the EU Resource Efficient Europe resolution, which could make the incinerator inoperable.

It was a very disappointing meeting. The Cabinet voted by seven votes to two, to not investigate the Forum’s proposal. There was one abstention.

Along with a healthy contingent of campaigners from St Dennis and the Mid Cornwall area, I left the meeting aghast at the decision, the manner in which it had been handled and the lack of informed debate by Cabinet Members.


PaulS said...

This is truly outrageous outcome.

One can argue about the merits of any one individual system, but to decide NOT to investigate a promising sustainable waste management system is highly irresponsible and bordering on the criminal. Particularly as ALL of the preparatory work done on the sustainable waste management system to-date has been done by a dedicated group of volunteers with no help from the Council or its officers, who have on the contrary been bending backwards to place as many obstacles in their way as possible.

One has to wonder if some of these officers haven't been promised some kind of reward for batting away any opposition to the current damaging and expensive incinerator based waste management plan.

MawKernewek said...

The trouble is the current cabinet seems to act like an unaccountable Soviet Politburo, not wanting to damage their egos by admitting they were wrong.