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GCC Ordered to Reveal Full Incinerator Contract Details

posted 10 Oct 2015, 10:21 by GlosVAIN Campaign   [ updated 10 Oct 2015, 10:25 ]

GLOSVAIN PRESS RELEASE - 9TH OCTOBER 2015

Gloucestershire County Council Ordered to Reveal Full Incinerator Contract Details

Campaigners opposed to the waste incinerator planned for Javelin Park, near Gloucester, have won a long-running battle to obtain the full details of the contract.

Since 2013 the Council had consistently refused to disclose large swathes of information in their contract with contractor UBB, because of "commercial confidentiality", claiming that the commercial interests of GCC and UBB would be prejudiced.

Now, following a ruling by the government’s Information Commissioner, the Council is compelled to disclose the information it has been withholding.

Campaign group GlosVAIN and others have long sought the financial details held within the contract. These had always been blacked out or “redacted” in any publication of contract information made by the Council.

A further request for the full incinerator contract and business case was made to the Council under Freedom of Information (FOI) rules in Jan 2015. Following further refusal by the Council to release full details, a complaint was made to the Information Commissioners Office, which adjudicates on disputed FOI requests. Following a 5-month review of the case, the Commissioner issued his decision via a “Decision Notice” on 8th October.

To the delight of campaigners, the Decision Notice now sees the ICO order GCC to release all the information previously withheld in both the contract and business case. This is expected to include key financial information and key dates.

Campaigners are expecting the information by 12th November, with the Decision Notice stating that “the public authority must [disclose the information] within 35 calendar days” and that “Failure to comply may result in the Commissioner making written certification of this fact to the High Court […] and may be dealt with as a contempt of court.”

Haresfield resident, Cos Ttofa, whose FOI request yielded the ICO decision, commented on the outcome. “The ICO ruling is great news. Once the Council release the information, we the public will finally get to see the full facts relating to this incinerator. It has been a long waiting game. The ICO had previously ruled that other councils had to disclose their incinerator contract details and GCC knew this. These precedents meant it was almost inevitable that the council would be compelled to release the information, and be shown to have been wrongfully and unjustifiably withholding it from the public for years. The public have every right to know how vast amounts of their money is planned to be spent.”

Sue Oppenheimer, Chair of GlosVAIN commented, “The Council was wrong to hide this information from the public. The ICO is very clear that GCC claims that the commercial interests of the Council or UBB would be harmed are unfounded.

We should soon know whether or not the Council’s claims of value for money from the incinerator and large contract cancellation costs are all hot air. We suspect that the information will support GlosVAIN’s assertion that the incinerator is a dreadful financial deal for Gloucestershire taxpayers.   Available alternatives would be much cheaper, smaller, safer and more environmentally friendly. The Council’s obsessive secrecy has always made us suspect that they have something to hide and are seeking to cover up poor financial decision making, by delaying release of this information for as long as they possibly could.”

 

ENDS

 

 

Notes for Editors

 

  • The full Decision Notice issued by the Information Commissioners Office can be viewed here.

  • The Information Commissioner’s office is the UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals. https://ico.org.uk/

  • More information about the history of GlosVAIN’s attempts to obtain the incinerator contract can be found on its website here.

  • A “38 Degrees” petition demanding contract disclosure has obtained 4,700 signatures to date, evidencing the weight of public interest and concern about non-disclosure of this information to date.

  • Opponents have long maintained that that the full cost details of the largest, most expensive contract that GCC had ever entered into needed to be in the public domain, as the public had the right to know whether the Council was obtaining value for money.

  • A wide variety of figures have been cited by GCC’s leaders in relation to contract cancellation costs, ranging from £60m to £150m, but none of these have ever been substantiated, whilst contract details have been withheld.

  • At the Council’s Extraordinary Meeting that took place on 18th February 2015, many councillors voting on whether or not to terminate the incinerator contract, complained about the  lack of access to the relevant financial information. Campaigners cited this as a failure of local democracy.

  • Disclosure of the full contract, including termination costs, will help proper scrutiny of the soundness or otherwise of the case for continuing with the incinerator.

  • Former Secretary of State, Eric Pickles granted planning permission on Appeal on 6th Jan 2015, despite prior unanimous rejection of the proposal by the County Council’s Planning Committee.

  • At an Extraordinary GCC meeting on 18th Feb 2015 the Council voted not to scrap the incinerator contract.

  • In 25th June 2015, Stroud District Council challenged Eric Pickles decision at the High Court. However, this challenge was confirmed as having failed on 10th July 2015, leaving the way open for the incinerator to start being built in the summer of 2016, with it expected to become operational in 2019.

  • Campaigners continue to battle against the plans despite the existence of planning permission, with GlosVAIN declaring its support for rival plans being progressed for the construction of an alternative to the incinerator at the same Javelin Park site, utilising a form of Mechanical and Biological Treatment of waste (MBHT). This project is named CommunityR4C. Further information is available on the project’s website here.

 

FOI victory