BOSSES at Nottinghamshire County Council have insisted that front line services will not be cut after plans to build an incinerator at Rainworth collapsed.
The announcement comes just a week after Secretary of State Eric Pickles recommended that plans for an energy recovery facility (ERF) by Veolia should be refused on the grounds that it could damage the habitats of woodlark and nightjar and become an eyesore.
In a letter of support for the plans sent to Mr Pickles as part of the official report, Nottinghamshire Council leader Kay Cutts and Coun Richard Butler said the facility would divert 180,000 tonnes of waste from landfill.
According to the letter, dated 15th April, the delay in the decision had cost an extra £5m and further delays would put additional strain on the authority ‘which given the financial pressures this council is facing, will make it extremely difficult to protect important services such as social care of adults and children from cuts’.
But this week, Coun Butler, who is cabinet member for environment and sustainability, said these frontline services would not be affected by the Secretary of State’s decision.
“The decision not to go ahead with the ERF means that the county council will have to find between £6m and £8m over the next three years to carry on sending waste to landfill,” he said.
“However, there is no question of any of our vital frontline services being affected by this.
“We’re already making savings through efficiency drives and changes to the way our back offices work in order to protect frontline services. That efficiency drive is ongoing. Obviously we are disappointed by the decision, but we move on and we are now looking at all available options with regard to the future of dealing with our waste.”
Meanwhile, members of the campaign group PAIN (People Against Incineration) slammed the letter as ‘alarmist’ and say that the council should not have used social care as a ‘political football’.
In a statement, a spokesman said: “It is obvious to the community that our county council should have been better prepared for this result.
“There were several opportunities to renegotiate the contract with Veolia over the years.
“The contract could have been abandoned a year ago on a no fault basis. In fact, the contract did not need to be signed in the first place.
“Once the council decided to enter into a PFI (private finance initiative) contract it was always going to be costly. That is one of the reasons we urged them not to sign it.
“In truth, a reserve of £22.7m has been built up because the incinerator has not been built. Now that it won’t ever be built that money could be released to help pay for weekly food waste collections.
“If we save about £20 a tonne, each year for the next 25 years, that would amount to a savings of £90 million.
“This seems a better deal to us than having to pay for an expensive and unnecessary incinerator.
“We deplore Nottinghamshire County Council’s unprincipled use of social care for vulnerable people as a political football. Sadly for them, they appear to have scored an own goal.”
For a copy of the official report, including the letter to Mr Pickles, email PCC@communities.gsi.gov.uk or call 0303 444 1634.