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LOCAL INCINERATOR BATTLE GOES NATIONAL

 

Hello there!

Our challenge to the Javelin Park incinerator has moved from the courts to GCC’s auditor, Grant Thornton, from whom we expect a report soon. Meanwhile our local battle against incineration has become a national one with further media attention to the insanity of incineration as a waste solution. And national legal action has highlighted the dangers of lack of transparency in Govt contracts.

More on this below.

 

Meanwhile, please support us by signing up and by sending this newsletter out far and wide. People not already signed up can do so here.



 

THE DIRTY TRUTH ABOUT YOUR RUBBISH'

Channel 4 Dispatches to expose Waste Incineration on Monday 8th March 8pm



 

This programme puts our local campaign against Javelin Park into a national context. Channel 4 describes it as: "A look at how millions of tonnes of household recycling end up incinerated, hiking carbon emissions, with councils locked into long and expensive waste contracts".

 

Please watch, and use your social media accounts and email contacts to help promote this link 'The Dirty Truth About Your Rubbish'.

 

The Radio Times says:

 

"Environmental journalist Lucy Siegle investigates the rise of waste incineration in the UK, examining how millions of tonnes of waste left out for recycling ends up being burned. The rise in carbon emissions from incineration is put under the spotlight, with exclusive research revealing that it is on course to become the UK's dirtiest form of energy production. The programme also looks at how councils are locked into expensive contracts with incinerator operators forcing them to burn waste for decades to come."
 

XR Gloucestershire is having a “watch party” followed by a panel Q &A discussion directly afterwards:



 


AUDITOR’S ‘REPORT IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST’

 

In addition to its environmental impact, Javelin Park is a shocking waste of money. The directors of CR4C therefore made a formal (lack of) ‘Value for Money’ complaint to the auditor nearly four years ago.

 

Auditor Grant Thornton’s enquiry has prevented Gloucestershire’s accounts from being signed off since then. They finally issued their third draft “Provisional Views” report in December, inviting views from us and from the GCC. We replied within the January deadline but after the GCC were given an extra three weeks, we added to our response.

 

The good news is that the auditor is minded to issue a ‘ Report in the Public Interest’ . This is a big deal – these reports are rare and typically criticise financial mismanagement or lack of good governance in local Govt.

 

We cannot tell you what the draft Grant Thornton document says because they insist – on pain of reporting us to the police – that it must remain confidential – even from the Audit Committee. However, our comments are not confidential and can be viewed here. 

 

Our latest response concludes: “The entire history of this contract has been one of concealment and delay by a small group at the GCC - the fact that it was concealed for years has even been confirmed by a High Court judge. This group used every trick in the book - and considerable public funds - to frustrate legitimate attempts by taxpayers to ensure full transparency concerning the Javelin Park contract. Why is that? Because in addition to being ill-conceived it was illegally procured and, as a result of a flawed process with no competition, bad value for money.

 

We do not know when Grant Thornton will release their final (public) response to our Value for Money objection. This could be in the next few weeks or it could be delayed because of the May elections. If Grant Thornton do issue a ‘Report in the Public Interest’, then it must be publicised and a public meeting must be held to discuss it. The more people who attend such a meeting to let their feelings be known, the better. Please contact us here if you’d like to be kept informed about this.

 

GOOD LAW, BAD PRACTICE

 

You may have seen that the Good Law Project recently won their case against the Government over the lack of transparency when letting Covid-related contracts. We think this comment by the judge is particularly pertinent: “When Government eschews transparency, it evades accountability.”

 

The national Govt claimed that the pandemic was unprecedented and some procurement shortcuts had to be taken - but they still lost. Of course the GCC had no such excuses! However, otherwise the case is so similar to ours that we thought we’d reproduce their information below.


 

The High Court has ruled “The Secretary of State acted unlawfully by failing to comply with the Transparency Policy” and that “there is now no dispute that, in a substantial number of cases, the Secretary of State breached his legal obligation to publish Contract Award Notices within 30 days of the award of contracts.” We have won the judicial review we brought alongside Debbie Abrahams MP, Caroline Lucas MP, and Layla Moran MP.

In handing down the judgment, Judge Chamberlain brought into sharp focus why this case was so important. “The Secretary of State spent vast quantities of public money on pandemic-related procurements during 2020. The public were entitled to see who this money was going to, what it was being spent on and how the relevant contracts were awarded.

The Judge went on to say that if Government had complied with its legal obligations we “would have been able to scrutinise CANs and contract provisions, ask questions about them and raise any issues with oversight bodies such as the NAO or via MPs in Parliament.”  When Government eschews transparency, it evades accountability. 

Government’s behaviour came under criticism in the judgment. If it had admitted to being in breach of the law when we first raised our concerns, it would have never been necessary to take this judicial review to its conclusion. Instead, they chose a path of obfuscation, racking up over £200,000 of legal costs as a result.  

We shouldn’t be forced to rely on litigation to keep those in power honest, but in this case it’s clear that our challenge pushed Government to comply with its legal obligations. Judge Chamberlain stated that the admission of breach by Government was “secured as a result of this litigation and at a late stage of it” and “I have no doubt that this claim has speeded up compliance”. It begs the question, if we hadn’t brought this legal challenge, what other contract details would have remained hidden from view? 

And whilst Government always sought to dismiss our challenge by claiming we needed to be an ‘economic operator’ to have standing, the judgment states that it is unrealistic that economic operators would have challenged Government’s breach of the law in these circumstances. In other words, if we hadn’t taken this case, there are not many others who could have done so. 

This judgment, which can be found here, is a victory for all of us concerned with proper governance and proof of the power of litigation to hold Government to account. But there is still a long way to go before the Government's house is in order. We have now written to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care detailing what needs to be done to improve procurement processes and ensure value for British taxpayers.


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