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Norfolk plea for Whitehall cash help refused

The Government has refused to help Norfolk CC meet the £30m cost of a contract that the council has said it was forced to break by communities secretary Eric Pickles.

Norfolk leader George Nobbs wrote to prime minister David Cameron asking for help with the cost after breaking a contract with waste firm Cory Wheelabrator to build an incinerator at The Willows near King’s Lynn.

The council has blamed the project’s collapse on Mr Pickles because his failure to decide on planning permission by the expected date rendered it unviable.

But DCLG minister Baroness Stowell wrote to Norfolk: “It is for the local authority to assess the risks and benefits of any local contract prior to agreeing to it.

“Therefore any need to pay a cancellation penalty is a private contractual matter and is for the local authority to consider how to meet such costs.

“It is not appropriate for national taxpayers to provide funding for penalty costs, should they arise, from locally-procured contracts.”

Nobbs said: “This puts to bed once and for all the frequent and various suggestions from Henry Bellingham that the Government would help the county council if it agreed to terminate The Willows’ contract.”

Local Conservative MP Mr Bellingham has been a prominent critic of the incinerator project.

Nobbs added: “I’m sure people will agree with me when I say I depreciate the rather dismissive comments made by Baroness Stowell about the efforts and judgement of my predecessor and his administration in relation to this contract.”

Norfolk’s cabinet scrutiny committee has said The Willows site should be sold to King’s Lynn and West Norfolk BC, but this has been referred to the new committees that are about to replace Norfolk’s cabinet system.

The county has also been hit by news that compensation for Cory Wheelabrator’s currency hedging cost will be £3.5m higher than the expected £30m.

This artcle first appeared on our sister title Local Government Chronicle

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