The Liberal Democrats on Gloucestershire County Council will at Wednesday’s extraordinary council meeting call for the Cabinet to ask Urbaser Balfour Beatty (UBB) to halt work on the incinerator at Javelin Park until a full and public independent review has been undertaken to scrutinise both the Council’s procurement process and the contract in detail.
On two separate occasions, the Liberal Democrats have challenged pivotal decisions made by the Conservative Cabinet regarding Gloucestershire County Council’s residual waste project. Firstly, in December 2011, the Liberal Democrats lodged what is known as a ‘call-in’ over the selection of a preferred bidder and again another ‘call-in’ was submitted in September 2012 over the Cabinet’s decision to award the contract to Urbaser Balfour Beatty (UBB) before the Council’s planning committee had considered the incinerator application.
Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton (LD: Kingsholm and Wotton) who will be leading calls for the review said:
“From the beginning, we’ve always challenged the process. In making a decision to cancel the incinerator contract at this stage, one needs to be sure of the exact costs involved and whether or not the contract had the necessary break-clauses in place to minimise any potential financial risk to this council.
“I am not convinced that the £60m-£100m cost to cancel the UBB contract is accurate, but has been instead overly estimated as a scaremongering tactic to stop elected members from voting in favour of cancelling the contract for fear of reprisals to council services.
“It is only right and responsible for an independent auditor to examine the contract in detail and determine impartially the actual figures involved with cancelling a contract of this nature and at this particular stage.
“If the figures are proved to be accurate, then, the Tories should be ashamed of themselves in purposefully tying our hands to a stringent and highly inflexible contract that will cost many millions of taxpayers’ money to cancel and detrimentally affect many council services.
“Until we know fully the costs involved, then, I do not feel that any elected member on Wednesday can make an informed decision over whether or not to cancel the incinerator contract.
“Labour has been overzealous in calling for the cancellation of the incinerator without first looking at all the costs involved and are playing politics over an important issue, which is simply for the benefit of their parliamentary candidate standing in Stroud. If sensible they too would be asking for such a review.
“It is time that we stop playing politics with such an important issue and get to the bottom of the real costs involved and whether the process was done correctly from the beginning.”
Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Cllr. Iain Dobie (LD: Leckhampton and Warden Hill) also said:
“If Labour are serious about cancelling this contract then wouldn’t it be better for them to know all the facts and surely if the Tories have nothing to hide then delaying work until the contract has been independently scrutinised would give elected members and residents of Gloucestershire confidence in the current administration.
“A review of this kind would give elected members like myself who were only elected in 2013 all the facts to make a reasoned and informed decision on whether it really is in the best interests of Gloucestershire to cancel the incinerator contract or not. I believe in transparency and I come to this without any prejudice.
“Our request is basically that once this review has been completed and a full uncensored report be presented to full council on Wednesday 20th May, then, we shall be in a much better position to make such an important decision.”