HERTS COUNTY COUNCIL HIGHWAYS AND WASTE PANEL REJECT AMENDMENT TO TERMINATE CONTRACT WITH VEOLIA
At the HCC Highways and Waste Panel Meeting on Nov 4th 2014, the Conservative majority supported an officers’ recommendation to continue the contract with Veolia.
HCC are saying they can either:
1. Agree to a RERF at New Barnfield (if Veolia first win their challenge to the Secretary of State over his decision against New Barnfield, and then subsequently gain Planning permission)
2. Agree to request a Revised Project Plan by Veolia (who would have 6 months to produce this, with HCC having a further 6 months to consider it)
3. Eventually terminate the contract with Veolia (at a cost of £1.2 million), and seek alternative methods to manage residual waste.
Councillor Sandy Walkington (Lib/Dem) proposed an amendment urging that the contract should be terminated now, and that alternative methods of waste management should be explored now. This was defeated, with voting on party lines, Lib/Dem and Labour supporting the amendment. Sandy Walkington stressed that continuing the Veolia contract closes down options, and that EU rules over procurement do not allow much variation in a Revised Project Plan from the original Veolia proposal. He spoke of advances in recycling technologies, the loss of PFI credits for an incinerator, recent EU rulings on climate change, and of how HCC’s interim waste arrangements give time to commission an independent analysis of all the options. He said that Herts should not be a dumping ground for waste from outside the county, in order to feed a huge incinerator. The penalty for breaking the contract is relatively modest, and is inevitable anyway.
HCC Officer Simon Aries, supporting retaining the contract, said that for Veolia to gain planning permission was “a big if”. He assured councillors that any Revised Project Pan would need to have remodelled financial details.
Maureen Cook (Labour, Central Hatfield), supporting the Lib/Dem amendment, said that Defra has said that the Herts project is not needed to meet targets of reducing landfill, and yet HCC officers are still claiming that the New Barnfield plan remains the best solution for waste. She also asked for all costs so far incurred to be revealed.
To this Simon Aries said that Defra in the past said proximity was important, but now is saying there are enough facilities. He claimed that transport costs are affordable for the interim solution, but would be on-going if Herts continued to “throw waste over our neighbour’s fence”.
Paul Zukowskyj (Lib/Dem, Hatfield South), who was speaking as the local member, said the claimed savings in the report are based on a comparison with land-filling all waste, which was not done previously, and is not what is planned. The current costs must be looked at. Also, the costs incurred over New Barnfield include the moving of Southfield School, the Park ESC, and the Resources Library, so full spending has not been revealed. We should look at what is best financially and environmentally.
Leon Reefe (Labour) said that consultations are being ignored.
Derrick Ashley (Con) said that HCC’s position is a holding operation.
There was an agreed change to clause 3.1.3 of the officers’ recommendation, which requested that all decisions be delegated to the Chief Executive and Director of Environment, i.e. Council Officers. It was agreed that decisions on New Barnfield or on a revised project plan have to go to Council members.
Rob Smith (HCC officer) said that seeing a Revised Project Plan has no cost, and Council can decide whether they use it or not.
Malcolm Cowan (Lib/Dem) said that Veolia have specific technologies they want to use, and “there are other shops” where HCC can buy a waste solution.
Terry Douris (Chair, Con) said that it would “be inappropriate to draw a precipitate closure” to the contract with Veolia, and the council can terminate the contract if they don’t accept Veolia’s Revised Project Plan. Paul Zukowksyj sought confirmation that Veolia would have 6 months to produce a RPP, and not more. Simon Aries said that they intend it to be 6 months.
The HCC officers’ proposal was carried, with Conservatives for and Labour and Lib/Dems against. Conservative councillors O’Brien, Muir, Knell, and Taylor did not speak in the debate, but raised their hands for the votes. The proposal now goes to Cabinet on Monday Nov 10th, and to Council on Tues Nov 25th.
Campaigners from Hatfield Against Incineration and Friends of the Earth were in the public gallery along with observers from Herts Without Waste, as were representatives of Veolia Environmental Services. Mick Bee of Herts WOW had previously distributed to the councillors on the Panel an outline of how they could seek an altogether better solution for waste management than Veolia's contract would allow.