On 14th January Community R4C serves a letter before action on Gloucestershire County Council alleging a breach of procurement law. A claim is filed with the High Court five days later.
The council prepares evidence for another information tribunal hearing, then withdraws its appeal at the last minute and discloses crucial information about the new contract on 20th December.
The Information Tribunal’s decision on 10th March 2017 requires that nearly all the redacted information be released because public interest overrides commercial interest in virtually every aspect of the contract. Judge Shanks expresses “some incredulity that it could possibly cost £100 million to cancel a contract worth some £500 million over 25 years at a stage when construction had not even started.” He further states that “at the time of the requests in January to March 2015 the controversy was particularly intense and there was a danger that the whole Contract would have to be terminated at a cost, according to the Council, of up to £100 million. At that stage, in our view, the Council’s obligation to act transparently was particularly strong as was the public interest in full disclosure”.
Community R4C submits a complaint to the Competition and Markets Authority on the basis that the pricing structure in the contract, involving huge fixed costs for 25 years and unfair market pricing, has the effect of foreclosing all competition and preventing technological innovation.
As local residents, Community R4C directors submit formal complaint to the councils auditors, Grant Thornton, on Value for Money grounds.
The renegotiated contract is signed but once again kept secret from councillors and the public on the same previously defeated grounds as before.
Chief Executive of Gloucestershire County Council, Peter Bungard becomes highest paid public sector worker in the South West after receiving a large discretionary award into his pension fund and reducing his working hours.
Work on the incinerator starts in November.
In January, the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, reverses the decision of GCCs planning Committee and grants planning permission.
In February a petition signed by 7,600 people asking GCC to terminate the contract is submitted. At an Emergency meeting, the Council debates a motion to do just that with immediate effect, but the motion is lost by 24 for and 27 against – a closely split vote. During the debate, Cllr Theodoulou tells councillors that the choice is between “The energy from waste solution (which) would provide £150 million worth of savings and the motion before members, which would incur cancellation costs up to £100 million”, but provides no data to substantiate these claims. They are questioned at the time, and later by the judge at the Information Tribunal. The recently released contract indicates that the claims were incorrect.
In March campaigners submit a Freedom of Information request for the full contract. GCC subsequently releases a heavily redacted version in May and campaigners appeal to the Information Commissioner’s Office for full disclosure.
The ICO decision notice on 8th October 2015 requires GCC to “Disclose the withheld information to the complainant.” GCC appeals this decision and the case goes before a Tribunal.
The contract, even though signed, is renegotiated outside of any competitive pressure. In November 2015 the Council’s Cabinet agrees a “£17 million one-off financial contribution”.
That same month members of the council’s oversight and scrutiny management committee attempt to call in the matter but the vote is defeated by the chair, who mysteriously votes for the motion as a member of the committee but against it in his role of chair with casting vote.
The contract is signed in February 2013, less than 4 weeks before consideration of the application at Planning Committee. GCC’s own Planning Committee unanimously rejects the application on 21st March 2013. The matter is ‘called in’ by the Secretary of State.
A 6-week planning inquiry is held between November 2013 – January 2014.
The Council’s Cabinet agrees to contract with UBB for an Energy from Waste plant at Javelin Park.
The Waste Core Strategy – the planning document against which the planning application for the Javelin Park incinerator would be judged – is adopted in November.
Defra withdraws PFI funding “on the basis that, on reasonable assumptions (the project) will no longer be needed in order to meet the 2020 landfill diversion targets set by the European Union” GCC decides to continue with the residual waste procurement process.
Gloucestershire County Council (GCC) buys land at Javelin Park, paying more than double what the previous owners had paid just the year before.
By going for a ‘technology neutral’ procurement process, GCC shuts down any public debate on waste options. The process remains secretive throughout.
Cabinet approves the Residual Waste Procurement Plan for diversion of residual waste from landfill and the Outline Business Case for submission to DEFRA in order to obtain PFI credits for a long term waste contract.