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Minister urged to review council's costly PFI deal

Plaid Cymru has called on Wales’ new first minister to intervene over a costly waste PFI contract.

Llyr Gruffydd, the party’s assembly member for North Wales, said Wrexham County Borough Council’s contract with FCC was too costly, and urged first minister Mark Drakeford (pictured) to see if the council could buy it out.

Drakeford’s manifesto when he stood for leader of the assembly’s Labour group in the autumn said he would “institute an annual review of existing PFI contracts across the Welsh public sector, to buy out those contracts where that provides a better outcome for the public purse”.

Gruffydd said Wrexham’s contract with FCC would not expire until 2038 and already cost the council £15m a year, a sum that would increase year-on-year.

“One of the key PFI contracts in Wales is the Wrexham waste scheme. It will cost at least £419m over its lifetime, a sum that has risen significantly over the years,” Gruffydd said.

“I’m asking the first minister to look at this contract with some urgency. The Welsh Government supported the initial contract with £40m of funding. If it can reduce the council’s outgoings at a time when frontline services are being cut each year, then it would be a clear benefit to residents in Wrexham.”

Wrexham declined to comment but in October the council admitted it faced a £1m overspend caused almost entirely by its refuse services.

A report to a council scrutiny hearing said an overspend of £1.13m was expected in the environment and planning service, of which £966,000 was due to refuse collection and disposal.

In a separate report, the Wales Audit Office noted that Wrexham was paying over the odds for residual waste because it was one of only three councils to operate outside the Government’s programme to support food and residual waste projects.

Auditors noted: “The gate fees for Wrexham’s residual waste treatment facility are more than double the median cost of the residual projects under the programme.”

 

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