Gloucestershire County Council has been referred to the Competition & Markets Authority in a bitter dispute about an energy recovery facility.
Objectors to the £500m Javelin Park plant argued that the private finance initiative contract between the council and developer Urbaser Balfour Beatty was open to challenge as being anti-competitive.
This followed Gloucestershire being ordered by the Information Tribunal on 14 March to publish most of the sections of the incinerator contract that it had argued were confidential.
Local community benefit society Community R4C said it had complained to the authority after a barrister’s analysis of the contract showed it could demonstrate value for money only by comparing incineration with landfill, rather than alternative disposal methods.
It claimed the contract’s pricing structure discouraged recycling and waste reduction, and would stifle competition and innovation among other waste companies.
The report said the project would cost Gloucestershire some £4.2m a year more than alternatives, and that termination costs were “much lower than previously stated by the council and could be covered by funds already committed”.
Community R4C’s joint founders Tom Jarman and Sue Oppenheimer said: “The council should request an immediate halt to construction to minimise liabilities while a full investigation takes place into both the legality of the contract and the value for money findings in this report.”
But Gloucestershire’s commissioning director for communities and infrastructure Nigel Riglar defended the contract processes.
He said: “The council ran a competitive process following procurement law to select a company to deal with of the county’s household waste that cannot be reduced, reused or recycled.
“We invited any company with any technology. R4C did not bid. The contract itself was originally written by central Government and is used widely in hundreds of contracts covering waste, health, roads and infrastructure. It is available on the council’s website.”
- A version of this article was first published in Local Government Chronicle