A legal challenge has been today submitted by the Liberal Democrats under the council’s constitution over Cabinet’s approval of a £17 million contribution towards the Javelin Park incinerator.
Liberal Democrats are also questioning the lack of transparency with regards to the revised UBB contract that Cabinet has now authorised the Director of Communities and Infrastructure to agree and sign before negotiations have been completed.
The legal challenge known as a ‘call-in’ will halt the signing of the revised contract with Urbaser Balfour Beatty (UBB) until members of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee can meet to review the process.
Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton (LD: Kingsholm and Wotton) said:
“I am appalled that we’re in a situation where this council is giving a further £17million of tax-payers money to Urbaser Balfour Beatty for this project.
“The rising costs of the project have been down to Tory recklessness and incompetence and now they’re expecting county residents to pay.
“The Tory cabinet has pushed ahead with this project regardless of public opinion. I’ve asked a question about the cost of UBB’s gate fees, but Cabinet Member, Cllr. Ray Theodoulou has refused to give an answer.
“The blatant lack of transparency has led many to be suspicious of the true costs of building such a facility in Gloucestershire and Cllr. Theodoulou’s refusal to answer straight-forward questions has left us no choice, but to challenge this decision.”
Liberal Democrat County Councillor Chris Coleman (LD: St Marks and St Peters) who is also the Cabinet Member for Clean and Green Environment on Cheltenham Borough Council said:
“This council is taking a huge reputational and financial risk and it’ll be the tax-payers who will bear the brunt. The Conservatives have had plenty of opportunity to do the right thing and stop this unwanted and grossly expensive scheme.
“Across the county, residents know that there are other technologies that are better for the environment, health and the economy but time and again the Conservatives have ignored these alternative ways to deal with waste.
“It is a ludicrous and never ending saga that is seeing taxpayers money literally going up in smoke.”
Notice of call-in
To Pete Bungard – Chief Executive
We, the undersigned six members give notice of which was published on 11 November 2015 (Agenda Item 8) –
Approval of a £17 million one-off financial contribution to the residual waste project, funded from revenue reserves to mitigate the cost of delay in the annual revenue budget for the project over 25 years.
Authorises the Director of Communities and infrastructure to agree and sign the deed of variation restatement of the residual waste contract.
The grounds for the call in are that the following conditions are satisfied for the reasons specified:
3. In making the decision, the Cabinet, Leader of the Council or Cabinet Lead Member took account of an irrelevant matter or failed to take account of a relevant matter –
The relevant matter[s] not taken into account by the Cabinet is [are]
Cabinet are being asked to authorise the Director of Communities and Infrastructure to agree and sign the deed of variation restatement of the residual waste contract even though negotiations still appear to be happening between the Council and UBB.
4. The Cabinet, Leader of the Council or Cabinet Lead Member acted contrary to the Cabinet Procedure Rules, the Access to Information about the County Council’s Formal Business and/or the principles of decision making set out in Part 2, Article 7.02 of the Constitution.
The matter contravened is –
7.02.3 – They should take proper consultation with others.
The above matter was contravened by the Cabinet in the following way:
The council continues to hide behind the protection of commercial confidentiality when members have asked questions about the project including the cost of gate fees, which presumably have now increased since the renegotiation of the contract and also in spite of the Information Commissioner’s order to release hidden details of the contract.
Although certain figures in terms of the costs involved as a consequence of planning delay or inability to obtain planning has featured on pink exempt paper; Cabinet has nevertheless failed to show ALL detailed costs involved to members of this council including the gate fees.
Members of this Council have not been properly briefed in terms of how the £17 million one-off financial contribution to the waste project paid now will actually provide any long-term savings to this council.
Cabinet have also failed to give members of this council any assurance that a £17 million one-off amount will not curtail and negatively impact other projects.
Dated – 11th November 2015
2. Call-in signed by the following Liberal Democrats: –
1. Cllr. Bernie Fisher
2. Cllr. Jeremy Hilton
3. Cllr. David Brown
4. Cllr. Simon Wheeler
5. Cllr. Chris Coleman