Opposition politicians have called for an inquiry into the Javelin Park energy-from-waste (EfW) project after Gloucestershire County Council was forced by the Information Commissioner’s Office to disclose vital commercial data, published last month.
Critics warn the contract structure could hit future attempts to increase recycling becauseit relied on a high rate of material going to incineration.
An open letter calling for an inquiry into the deal with contractor Urbaser Balfour Beatty has been signed by shadow environment minister David Drew, MP for Stroud, and councillors from the Liberal Democrat and Green parties.
They said the disclosed documents showed the headline cost of Javelin Park (pictured) had risen to more than £600m between 2013-16, despite the council describing Javelin Park as “a £500m project”.
The letter said the contract structure showed that a low average gate fee could be achieved only with high waste flows, “leaving substantial risk on the council that it will pay an effective gate fee far above market rates, and that the ability of future administrations to reduce waste volumes and promote recycling will be severely restricted”.
Signatories also said the data revealed a 30% increase in the capital price to £178.9m, of which the full council was not informed, and that a cheaper option had been ignored to finance the project through prudential borrowing by the council.
They claimed that, in November 2015, the cabinet was told the maximum saving from proceeding with Javelin Park would be £93m, yet savings claims of £150m and £100m had been made.
“We need to know where the decision was made to provide misleading figures, and who decided not to provide the accurate information that was requested during multiple scrutiny processes,” the letter said.
Gloucestershire Conservative leader Mark Hawthorne said: “It is really disappointing to see the usual suspects playing party politics over the incinerator. The detailed independent value for money report released just before Christmas makes it clear that Javelin Park will save taxpayers more than £100m.
“Opponents to Javelin Park have no credible alternative and we are rapidly running out of landfill space. Ironically, it was the Liberal Democrats and Labour who identified the Javelin Park sight as suitable for a ‘strategic’ incinerator in 2004 – something never opposed by David Drew.”