25th March 2021
GLOS COUNTY AUDIT CHIEF BLAMES JAVELIN PARK ENQUIRY DELAY ON ‘COVER UP’ BY COUNCIL LEADERS
Community R4C welcomes intervention by Cllr Nigel Robbins, Chair of County Council Audit & Governance Committee
Councillor Nigel Robbins, OBE, Chair of Gloucestershire County Council Audit & Governance Committee, has criticised the Council leadership and administration for a four year long delay in publishing an investigation by County auditors Grant Thornton into the controversial £613 million Javelin Park incinerator contract.
In a ten minute long pre-prepared statement to the Committee today he deplored the current administration’s lack of transparency and the impact of the report’s latest delay on the democratic process in terms of the forthcoming County Council elections.
“Why would GCC wish to prevent publication of this long-awaited report? We can only conclude that it contains substantial criticisms. It would be difficult to draw any other conclusion other than that our Authority has contrived to delay publication until it could be safely protected by [local election] purdah.
“The A&G Committee is supremely important in overseeing the probity, integrity and health of GCC. It’s almost like the conscience of the organisation. It should be able to leave no stone unturned but we have not been able to rise to that standard.”
The long-running investigation by auditors Grant Thornton, who are also the County’s financial advisors began after a formal objection by the directors of Community R4C in March 2017 claiming the Javelin Park contract was awarded in breach of procurement law. They have welcomed his unusual intervention.
Community R4C director Tom Jarman said:
“Despite severe pressure from County Council officials, Cllr Nigel Robbins has bravely refused to be gagged about the cover up which has taken place for the last six years over the illegal Javelin Park contract.
“His Committee is extremely important because it should have full oversight over how Gloucestershire taxpayers’ money is spent. Yet they are not even allowed to see the latest legal advice given to County auditors, which we have seen, to the effect that the GCC broke procurement law.
“Cllr Robbins is a senior and respected figure who has given many years of dedicated service to the County. His statement today validates what we have been saying for years.”
The Audit & Governance Committee of the GCC is supposed to:
Provide independent assurance to the Council on the adequacy and effectiveness of the governance arrangements, risk management framework and internal control environment.
Promote high standards of member conduct.
Approve the Annual Statement of Accounts and Annual Governance Statement
The Javelin Park contract was first awarded in 2013 to Urbaser Balfour Beatty after competitive tender but then unanimously opposed by the planning committee. After appeal to the Sec of State, Eric Pickles, it was re-awarded to UBB in 2016 - without a new tender - at a cost of £613 million, an increase of £163 million or around 36%. Such an increase is not permissible under public procurement law unless under a defined set of exceptions. Legal counsel received by CR4C and, more recently, by Grant Thornton has ruled no such exceptions apply. GCC CEO Peter Bungard is on record attributing a large part of the cost increase to pressure from UBB.
Community R4C is a community benefit society set up to promote the concept of a ‘circular economy’ in Gloucestershire. As part of this its members have fought a long campaign to oppose the Javelin Park waste incinerator in favour of pre-treatment and recycling. They seek return by UBB of any overpayments made as a result of the non-competitive award, They estimate these could be as much as £150 million.
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