Challenging Gloucestershire's £600m Incinerator Contract
Challenging Gloucestershire's £600m Incinerator Contract
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Latest: May 29, 2019
First Court Hearing 7th June
Community R4C is taking Gloucestershire County Council to court for breaking procurement law when renegotiating the incinerator contract with Urbaser Balfour Beatty. Our barrister thinks we h...
We are Community R4C and we need your support for our legal action against Gloucestershire County Council’s secretive and unlawful incinerator contract. This is a tale of council secrecy, mismanagement and law-breaking which is leading to the worst environmental and financial outcomes for the people of Gloucestershire.
Our challenge will expose this wrongdoing and hold those responsible to account.
Since early 2015, we have been fighting to obtain information from Gloucestershire County Council (GCC) about their contract with Urbaser Balfour Beatty for the Javelin Park Waste Incinerator, the largest public contract in the county's history. However they have opposed us at every turn, spending nearly half a million pounds of taxpayer’s money to protect their secrets.
Finally, on 20th December 2018, just before Christmas, and with the prospect of losing a second Information Tribunal, they released the pertinent facts, trying to ‘bury bad news’. We now know that:
- The contract price has increased by 30% in less than 3 years - a staggering £150m.
- The Council will pay £189 per tonne for 108,000 tonnes of waste per annum, whilst commercial companies will only pay £62 a tonne.
- By renegotiating the contract in secret without re-tendering, GCC broke procurement law.
- The contract breaks State Aid rules and, if proven, the contractor would be required to pay a substantial part of the £150m back to GCC.
- The contract is specifically structured to encourage the increase of ‘residual’ waste for burning and discourage recycling. The environmental/climate and health impact from burning this waste (wasted resources, air pollution, CO2 emissions) is very significant.
- Officers and Cabinet members misled councillors and the public about the contract price.
If the council had followed procurement law and retendered, they could have achieved a far better financial and environmental outcome for Gloucestershire. Community R4C, a Community Benefit Society run by volunteers and supported by over a hundred local community shareholder investors, planned to build a waste resource recovery plant, which would have been much cheaper, avoided the emissions of an incinerator, preserved valuable resources and put money back into the local community. We have submitted a legal challenge against Gloucestershire County Council under procurement law for damages due as a result of being denied the opportunity to bid for the contract.
If we win our case, although we can’t stop the incinerator (which is now nearly built), we will seek a commitment from the council to work closely with Community R4C to ensure that changes are made, including: removing the mechanism that gives incentives to recycle less and waste more; ensuring that third party gate fees are equal to those paid by the Council taxpayers; encouraging greater recycling and waste avoidance; pre-sorting waste to remove recyclable material; decommissioning or re-purposing the Incinerator as soon as it is economic to do so.
The scandal associated with Gloucestershire County Council’s heinous decision to commission the Javelin Park incinerator deepens by the day. I wholly commend the indefatigable efforts of Community R4C to force the Council to come clean on the decisions it has taken over the last few years, and to hold to account the Council’s CEO and other officials.
This critically important campaign has implications that go way beyond the wrongdoing of Gloucestershire County Council, going to the very heart of our democracy today. That’s why I’m enthusiastically supporting this crowdfunding campaign – and I hope that you will too.
Jonathon Porritt CBE
Help us challenge the unlawful, dishonest and secretive actions of our County Council and deter similar behaviour by public authorities across the nation by encouraging other local communities to stand up to unlawful practices.
You can help by:
- Making a donation to our legal costs on this page
- Investing by buying shares and becoming a shareholder member of Community R4C
- We welcome larger donations, but suggest you get in touch with us directly to discuss these.
- Providing a loan, repayable if we win the case (we think our chances are very good and we would aim to recover costs). Please note that because of Crowd Justice’s terms, we can only repay these in full if they are given to us directly
- Volunteering with Community R4C
Our legal costs will probably be much higher than our initial £10,000 target. We are exploring other donations and insurance, and are confident that, with your support we will be able to raise enough to pursue this case.
I thought it imperative to support Community R4C back in 2015 with their plans for a healthier Recycling Plant alternative to the Javelin Park mass-burn incinerator. That misguided project has been the subject of a decade-long saga of public persistence in the face of relentless council suppression and secrecy. Whilst deeply shocking, it is perhaps unsurprising therefore to learn of this latest development. The tragedy is that the present outcome was avoidable - if council officers and leaders had done their job with integrity and followed proper procedure, Community R4C's greener option could now have been operational in place of the Javelin Park monster. Those of us campaigning for a healthier and more economical solution always wondered whether something was rotten in the state of Glos County Council's secretive Cabinet, and I can only hope that now this has come out, the Council as a whole can put its house in order, investigate the situation fully and see what can be salvaged and, most importantly, learned from this financial and environmental mess.
Jeremy Irons, Actor
May 29, 2019
First Court Hearing 7th June
Community R4C is taking Gloucestershire County Council to court for breaking procurement law when renegotiating the incinerator contract with Urbaser Balfour Beatty. Our barrister thinks we have a 60% chance of winning this case. If we do, it will prove that GCC has given illegal state aid to UBB and we can apply for £75m or more to be returned to the public purse. This might just succeed in stopping the incinerator altogether or at least cut short its life burning recyclable material and polluting our county.
The first court hearing is on
Friday 7th June at 11.30 am at the Bristol Civil and Family Justice Centre, Court 14 on Floor 3, 2 Redcliffe Street Bristol BS1 6GR
It would be great if lots of people could come and support us, by standing outside beforehand and also coming into the court hearing. This would show that there is a high level of opposition to the incinerator, and much interest in the case. The hearing is what’s called a ‘Case Management Conference’ so it will just discuss how the case will proceed and nothing will be decided - it will be very boring! It should last 1.5hours. We are asking people to be respectful and quiet during the proceedings.
There will be three 7-seater vehicles leaving Stroud from the back of Tesco’s carpark and we can carshare if more people come - please gather there at 9.45am.
GCC have stated that their costs for the procurement case will be £465k - we believe they are trying to frighten us off with inflated figures (we would be liable for costs if we lost the case). But we are not going to be frightened! Please come and support us.
May 14, 2019
Update on Challenging Gloucestershire's £600m Incinerator Contract
First of all, a massive THANK YOU! We are really heartened that, to date, 191 of you have shown faith in our efforts to hold Gloucestershire County Council to account and donated to our cause. You have raised a huge £11,590 to help us expose their illegal mishandling of the Javelin Park incinerator contract.
We have been working hard to progress our legal case and we are feeling cautiously optimistic. Our barrister has concluded that we have a 60% chance of winning, which is helping us to obtain legal insurance to cover some of the costs. We have a preliminary hearing at Bristol Crown Court scheduled for the 7th June, after which we will have a clearer view of how the case is progressing. In the meantime we still need to raise significant funds, so anything you can do to help would be much appreciated. More on this at the base of this note.
Winning this procurement case is just the start. It will prove that the contractor, Urbaser Balfour Beatty, has benefitted from illegal state aid, and we will pursue getting the estimated £75m+ returned to the public purse. We aim to work with the County Council so that they continue to support recycling at District level; that they install a pre-sorting plant to ensure no recyclable materials are burnt; and ultimately to look at terminating the contract with UBB.
In the meantime it’s worth remembering why we are doing this in the first place: The Gloucestershire incinerator is a monstrous environmental crime. Thousands of us have been fighting it for many, many years, and it is now very clear to all how bad this is for Gloucestershire and our environment. Community R4C has been fighting for a well informed and much better alternative, long of the view we shouldn’t be just fighting against something, but also fighting for something. There is now cross party, cross government, international recognition that incineration of waste is harmful – worse than landfill, and we need to avoid this.
Over 65% of the electricity from the Glos. incinerator comes from burning plastic. This is recyclable and is derived from oil, a fossil fuel. The incinerator is so badly designed (old tech) that only around 20% of the energy in the plastic ends up as electricity (about a third of a modern coal plant). So as a power plant it is massively worse than the worst coal or oil burning power station. Its carbon footprint is horrendous. By comparison our alternative would save 100,000 tonnes pa of CO2 emissions
It also burns metals – including heavy metals. A significant proportion of the waste (which is not pre-sorted) is electronics goods – including valuable and rare (aka limited) heavy metals. An incinerator wastes this, worse still, burning heavy metals produces highly toxic residues. Burning material with chlorine produces dioxins, and small particulates, which cannot be fully cleaned in the emissions – so harmful health effects, adding to the harm from diesel emissions.
The contract structure means that recycling done by districts councils will effectively much reduce – the contract makes it more than three times cheaper to throw recyclables in the incinerator than to pay districts to recycle.
And it’s costing a huge amount of public money - £650M which is at least three times the cost of alternatives over 25 years, for a plant designed to last well beyond 2050 (when we should be zero carbon). This public money should go to much better causes, and we must spend infrastructure money on planet friendly, climate change respecting programmes.
Our work has national significance. We can and should be an exemplar for the change that is needed if we are to value our planet.
Thank you for your support to date –you may ask what next? We will need to raise perhaps £80,000 to fund the procurement case through to completion. This has a 60% chance of success, and we will be able to repay supporters (with interest) if we win. This is a large sum of money – but very small compared to the £75M+ we aim to recover for local taxpayers. We have already had some significant indications of support towards this new goal.
You can still donate on our CrowdJustice page – however we are now able to offer investment options for larger supporters and we are very keen to hear from anyone who would be interested in a larger investment – with a promise of return on success which you can keep or reinvest in Community R4C. If you would like to hear more, can offer support or introductions or would be interested in a larger investment yourself please do get in touch with us at Community R4C – your support at this exciting time is very much welcomed!
March 8, 2019
You did it!
Thank you so much for helping us reach our all-or-nothing target!!! Your pledges and messages of support have been amazing!
We have now extended the campaign so to allow more people to also pledge their support but we made the £10,000 and we are now guaranteed to get the funds.
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