Norfolk County Council leader: I’d have quit if incinerator vote had gone the other way

The full council meets at County Hall for the incinerator debate. Picture: Denise Bradley The full council meets at County Hall for the incinerator debate. Picture: Denise Bradley

Tuesday, October 29, 2013
6:30 AM

A decision will be made this morning to press ahead with the controversial incinerator proposed for Norfolk, but campaigners have refused to give up the battle to stop the plant.

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Norfolk County Council’s cabinet is to decide whether to accept a revised project plan for the King’s Lynn incinerator - and the full council yesterday recommended that it should.

After three hours of sometimes stormy debate, councillors voted by 40 votes to 38 to recommend to the cabinet that a revised project plan for the burner, submitted by Cory Wheelabrator, should be agreed.

That recommendation was a blow to campaigners who hoped to pull the plug on the plant, which the government withdrew waste credits for earlier this month.

Afterwards, County Hall leader George Nobbs revealed he would have resigned rather than agreed to scrap the contract, saying it would have had a devastating impact on services because of compensation triggered.

Campaigners against the incinerator said a golden opportunity had been missed, but, buoyed by a narrow margin of defeat. said the war against the burner would continue.

Councillors were allowed a free vote at yesterday’s meeting and, other than UKIP, whose members all voted against the incinerator proposed for King’s Lynn, there were divisions in parties.

The vote was for a recommendation to make to the council’s cabinet, made up of Labour and Liberal Democrat portfolio holders.

That cabinet will meet this morning and are likely to agree the revised project plan – essentially keeping the incinerator project on course.

Labour leader Mr Nobbs spoke of his relief that they had recommended the cabinet take that course of action and said had the outcome been different he would have considered quitting as leader.

With reports placing the possible compensation payable to Cory Wheelabrator had the council terminated the contract between £20m and £100m, there had been warnings, described as scaremongering by critics, that the authority would have to make immediate service cuts.

And Mr Nobbs said: “I had decided that it would have been impossible for me to have defied the democratic wish of the council if they had voted to cancel, but that I could not have inflicted such damage to council services.

“I would have had no option but to resign and leave others to make that decision.

“It would have been devastating had the vote gone the other way. What people have been asking for they have got - a free vote, a council debate, a public inquiry and two independent reports at cost to the taxpayer.

“I do not see what more they could ask for, but I fear they will not accept this result. I fear there is nothing they would accept if it is not in total agreement with their point of view.”

Mr Nobbs said the incinerator issue had “poisoned” Norfolk for years and that it was “time to move on”.

A decision to award Cory Wheelabrator a contract to run the £596m plant was made in March 2011 by the former Conservative administration. But the full council had never debated the incinerator until yesterday.

The incinerator had been awarded £91m in waste credits by the government, which would have been worth £169m over the lifetime of the plant.

However, the government withdrew that funding earlier this month and, with the council needing to agree a revised project plan for the plant, councillors demanded the right to vote on whether they should push ahead.

Toby Coke, UKIP leader, kicked off the debate by rubbishing claims that the council would face a compensation bill of up to £100m if it broke the contract by refusing to accept a revised project plan.

He said: “We have been told that rejecting the plan will lead to financial armageddon, but we dispute that and believe we must have the courage to bring this hugely divisive project to an end.”

He said reports he commissioned showed it would be cheaper to export waste to be burned in Amsterdam than sent to Saddlebow.

Labour leader Mr Nobbs said he was not convinced by that argument and warned “massive damage” would have to be inflicted on services if the contract was cancelled.

His argument was echoed by former Conservative deputy leader Ian Mackie, who said rejecting the contract would leave the county council staring into a “financial abyss”.

Others, including Green councillor Andrew Boswell and Liberal Democrat Tim East, disagreed, arguing a way could be found, whether through using reserves or asking the government for permission to capitalise the compensation payments.

But, ultimately it came down to 40 votes recommending the cabinet sticks with the project, compared to 38 who wanted it to be stopped.

About 75 people were packed into the public gallery at County Hall in Norwich, many bussed in from King’s Lynn, to listen the debate, which included cries of outrage from the public gallery and tears from a councillor torn by the decision.

Afterwards. Mike Knights, vice-chairman of the campaign group King’s Lynn Without Incineration (KLWIN), said he was disappointed but had expected the plan to be approved – although he had not expected it to be so close.

He said: “Anyone who thinks this draws a line under the issue is mistaken. I will be continuing to oppose it.

“There are still opportunities ahead that mean it could be stopped.”

Campaigner Joy Franklin, who has long opposed the proposal, said the defeat was “expected – but what was surprising was how close it was”.

And Henry Bellingham, North West Norfolk MP, branded “nice but dim” by Labour’s Mick Castle during the debate to the fury of the public and some fellow councillors, said: “There were 10 councillors who either didn’t vote or who voted for it who were elected on a personal or a party manifesto to stop it.

“A golden opportunity comes along to stop it, cut our losses to an acceptable level and they fail to grab it.

“The danger now is by signing the revised project plan they’re going to remain committed, more costs and liabilities will arise and the secretary of state will turn it down and leave the council liable.”

But Bill Borrett, leader of the Conservative group and one of the cabinet members who agreed to award the contract back in March 2011, said the right decision had been made.

He said: “Although the loss of the waste infrastructure credits is a significant blow, the project will

still deliver savings of several million pounds a year which will be used to protect front-line services.”

44 comments

  • On a serious point, start an online petition requesting Ed Mil to kick Nobblet out of the party because his action (breaking a pre-election promise made barely 6 months ago) has brought the party into disrepute, what what.

    Report this comment

    Mr Cameron Isaliar

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

  • No wonder the tories accepted George Nobbs Labour as leader he is one of them. What message does this send out to young people who will be voting for the first time. They would be lumbered wiith ta £600 million bill. It would be absurd for Eric Pickles to give planning now. As we have an overcapacity of incinerators. 25 years feeding an incinerator our money to benifit a American Comapany and the banks. You have to question why a bank would invest in this scheme now, Banks have no gaurantee of profit now investing in the Flinstones incinerator would be bad for Norfolk and be bad for the banks. The tories and labour leader have lost the plot. God Help Us.

    Report this comment

    Jack

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

  • If he had made this statement before yesterday then he stood a chance of people believing him. But he didn't and I assume he wont be there today because he must have tripped over his own nose and injured himself by now. The Labour party locally is irrevocably damaged because of him and his gangcabinet. Roll on the committee system. And would they all stop insulting our intelligence by saying the Council will be bankrupted by paying over £24 million instead of £149 million. I may not have six fingers like Nobbs but I can still see how stupid they look saying they are going to hand over six times as much plus the other fees to Tory Wheelabrator instead of sending them packing and dealing with our rubbish in a cleaner greener and cheaper way.

    Report this comment

    alecto

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

  • If Nobbs has a shred of decency in his body he will now resign. No doubt he will trot out the usual stuff about the county coming together as one now and working on the `real` problems we face. This is a major problem in the west and will remain so. It will not go away. I do not expect Nobbs to resign, moral fibre is needed for that act. I saw nothing yesterday that suggests he is a leader.

    Report this comment

    democrat

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

  • I suppose Murphy is hiding in his South Norfolk bunker while his successors have the impossible task of dealing with his monumental mess.

    Report this comment

    Johnboy

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

  • Nobbs would not have quit. Just words. A bit like those words before the election. Remember ? He used them to trick the campaigners and they fell for it too.

    Report this comment

    Ivor Nardonne

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

  • Weak and gutless, we will just have to wait for the government to finish it off. Defra have said no so DCLG will follow. Lets have the voting list so the weak can be questioned and answer to the public

    Report this comment

    Sweet cheeks

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

  • It appears that democracy loses again. This much hated project will go ahead. It seems for the sole reason that the owners of the plant would be paid many millions for doing nothing. This is the real problem. Who signs these ludicrous contracts with such cancellation clauses? Somebody within the council building must be responsible. Surely this contract must have been read thoroughly before signing. The whole scenario needs looking at. Look at the signatures on the contract and expose them. Though by now, they will not have fled from the scene.

    Report this comment

    norman hall

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

  • if Nobbs had said 'I'll resign if you vote to bin the burner' BEFORE the debate, the vote might easily have gone t'other way! Who wants a leader who reneges on the manifesto upon which he stood? (apart from every card-carrying Tory in the land, that is...)

    Report this comment

    martin wallis

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

  • If the criteria for resigning is damage to front line services, then I would kindly suggest the whole Labour Leader should resign, damage to front line services is being inflicted on Social Services on a massive scale. The staff are run ragged support services are decimated. The scale of the cuts are unbelievable, i is shameful a Labour led administation are implementing these cuts. Do the honourable thing and not be Tory poodles, resign.

    Report this comment

    Gina

    Thursday, October 31, 2013

  • Bit of a yellow belly Mr Nobbs.

    Report this comment

    Sherbert

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

  • Nothing wrong with Nobbs.

    Report this comment

    Inactive account

    Wednesday, October 30, 2013

  • Yesterday was a sad day for Norfolk & for democracy in the County..

    Report this comment

    el84

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

  • How many more U turns is Mr Mobbs going to make. Just goes to show don`t believe anything politicians promise to get elected. Anyone really believe Red Ed will freeze energy prices - not really.

    Report this comment

    BG

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

  • Fools. With recycling increasing there will not be enough rubbish to keep it going, then NCC will get fined by their buddies CW for not meeting their agreed targets. Multiply that by 25 years...

    Report this comment

    Bikerboy

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

  • It was estimated that the incinerator would save NCC £200 million pounds over the 25 year period of operation. The removal of £169 million PFI credits by DEFRA leaves us with just £31 million 'savings'. Has anyone released what Cory Wheelobrator will fine NCC for any failure to feed the incinerator with the contracted amount of waste per day, week, month, year?

    Report this comment

    Fly Tipper

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

  • Do it anyway - for all our sakes!

    Report this comment

    disolushund

    Wednesday, October 30, 2013

  • Someone on here predicted that Nobbs would do this a long time ago. It seems that those campaign people are a bit slow on the uptake. They really thought they had a few friends but they never saw it coming. Talk about sucker punches. This is all standard play. They should have dumped that Knights bloke ages ago. Might have had a chance without him. Obviously no chance with him. Oh and whose bright idea was it to shout insults at the speakers from the public gallery? That works every time I don't think. These campaigners could write a book about how to lose friends and upset people.

    Report this comment

    Mr A. Schicklgruber

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

  • As said at the time of the election Nobbs & Co will do as they are told. They will favour the build and continue with it. Plenty spouting on here today disagreed with that back then whilst hurling the usual insults and hailed Nobbs as Mr Wonderful. Now what do you think ?

    Report this comment

    Dickens

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

  • Spineless and unprincipled. What happened to him 'doing everything in his power to stop this incinerator'.What happened to his election pledge....This guy must go NOW.

    Report this comment

    Scooby

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

  • It's not the first time that I've said that if you scratch Nobbs, you'd find Murphy underneath. I remain as utterly unsurprised by him today as I was yesterday.

    Report this comment

    Fenscape

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

  • cameron isaliar - "On a serious point, start an online petition requesting Ed Mil to kick Nobblet out of the party because his action (breaking a pre-election promise made barely 6 months ago) has brought the party into disrepute, what what." I don't think Milly would be even slightly interested in a tin pot council in the back of beyond or one of its parts. Get real. He did not break an election promise he just used a local issue to get elected and tricked a few carrot crunching campaigners. Not hard was it ?

    Report this comment

    Inactive account

    Wednesday, October 30, 2013

  • If only Nobbs had said he would resign before the vote, we would have seen a completely different result, an overwhelming rejection of the RPP just to get rid of him. Nobbs has claimed the county was divided, now thanks to the Nobbs and McNeill scaremonger roadshow, no longer are a minority against this, they have manage to divide the entire Council. Well done George, your true colours are now firmly nailed to County Hall’s mast for all to see.

    Report this comment

    Honest John

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

  • Everyones an expert..... Alecto, thought you were off?

    Report this comment

    Andy T

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

  • If the criteria for resigning is damage to front line services, then I would kindly suggest the whole Labour Leader should resign, damage to front line services is being inflicted on Social Services on a massive scale. The staff are run ragged support services are decimated. The scale of the cuts are unbelievable, i is shameful a Labour led administation are implementing these cuts. Do the honourable thing and not be Tory poodles, resign.

    Report this comment

    Gina

    Thursday, October 31, 2013

  • When are we going to hve a list of those that voted for and those that voted against. And wouldn't it have been cheaper to take the waste to the incinerator just outside Thetford?

    Report this comment

    Pete Tilbury

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

  • what a stitch up all those that voted for should hold their heads in shame total shambles from start to finish democracy these lot could not even spell the word , it shows what these lot in the NCC thinks of the poor relation that is kings lynn

    Report this comment

    kl.patriot

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

  • Ha ha nice one George. They never saw it coming.

    Report this comment

    Mike Hunt

    Thursday, October 31, 2013

  • Actually I have an idea. I will stand for election and if the anti incinerator lot back me and get me into the Council as leader I promise to turn the incinerator into a free public ten pin bowling alley and I will halve council tax and give free public transport to everyone and on Sundays you can all dine out with the family and send the bill to County Hall. These anti incinerator campaigners will believe anything so looks like I am in with a good chance.

    Report this comment

    Paul Mycock

    Thursday, October 31, 2013

  • I expect most people were suspicious of the incinerator application because Derrick Murphy had kept his councillors under control as he was nicknamed the enforcer to force the application through. His involvement in (kevingate) bully boy brash manor with a bad reputation reinforced Cory Wheelabrator have an unhealthy grip on County Hall. How can you trust someone like this to fight your corner when he never helped his constituents with advice on the incinerator but bent over backwards to support a company with violations. George Nobbs to the rescue with his perceived openness and gave the impression he was a man that would listen to all sides of the argument but he resorted to rewarding Yob culture as a means to an end when a curtain councilor was abusive and disrespectful of an MP and told untruths about the referendum to influence support. It would not have been as bad if Mick Castle was removed from the chamber as his actions warranted suspension. George Nobbs must have felt comfortable with Mick Castles way of running politics that belongs in the gutter.

    Report this comment

    Gordon Brookes

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

  • Keep going D.ick.ens..... which dodgy email account have you used to get in touch with Mick Castle I wonder???

    Report this comment

    Fenscape

    Thursday, October 31, 2013

  • A huge anvil dropped on Knights head yesterday and another one today but he appears not to have noticed !

    Report this comment

    Del Boy

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

  • So much for 'consensus' - the touchstone of localism and the rationale for awarding the PFI which made this contract 'economically viable' (sic) in the first place! 40 votes to 38, with the help of five quislings from Labour, three from the LibDems, and six absentees. If just ONE of the quislings had voted t'other way, the result would have been match nul. How can Pickles honestly interpret this result as a 'consensus' in favour of the burner? Messrs Harrison, Joyce and Timewell should be deselected, and by-elections held to replace them. Ditto Castle, Hacon, Nobbs, Walker and Whittaker. And Councillors Chenery, Dewsbury, Humphrey, Kiddle-Morris, Morphew and Roper should fall on their swords. What a shambolic crew. It's all very well for yesterday's EDP leader to say "For the councillors who represent us never to have had an opportunity to register their support or lack of it for such a plant in the council chamber beggars belief". Where was the EDP's disbelief, it's sense of outrage at the subversion of local democarcy, at the time? If full council had had sight of the contract, it is arguable - and the anti lobby would say highly plausible - that it would never have let it through. And this whole sorry mess would have been avoided. I have no recollection of the EDP crying 'Foul' at the time. The words stable door, horse and bolted spring to mind. "... your Eastern Daily Press, which has watched unfolding events at county hall with a mixture of bemusement and astonishment...". Disbelief. Bemusement. Astonishment. Are these the hallmarks of a great campaigning newspaper, reduced to apparent impotence in the face of the facts? Better late than never: time now for the EDP to regain the trust of its readers and get four-square behind a campaign to put pressure on Mr Pickles to withdraw planning consent. Consent, and consenus. Discuss. Peter Trudgill, Richard Shepheard, over to you gentlemen.

    Report this comment

    martin wallis

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

  • Come on EDP get that voting list, publish who voted for and against, then get those elected on a promise to stop it to explain why they voted for it. My money is they fell for the bankruptcy story.

    Report this comment

    Bikerboy

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

  • Scooby, spot on, Nobbs must go.

    Report this comment

    gasman

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

  • Do you see how easily the EDP's political bias is exposed? I make a comment criticising the Nobblet and it not only gets through but also persists, whereas my other posts, referring to Borat, Jordon, Monson, and others as 'criminaIs', describing Timmins and fellow senior officers as 'Iiars', and questioning the whereabouts of Uncle Fester, have vanished without trace...just as this one surely will!

    Report this comment

    Mr Cameron Isaliar

    Wednesday, October 30, 2013

  • So....its been ratified....no surprise there....I suspect members of the cabinet are bracing themselves for the fallout now....wonder how long they will remain in their respective positions...

    Report this comment

    Scooby

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

  • You can't blame Mr Nobbs. The anti incinerator lot backed the man and offered to put him into office. He was smart enough to accept their stupid offer. Well done mate. They say there is one born every minute.

    Report this comment

    Paul Mycock

    Thursday, October 31, 2013

  • Nobbsie broke his promise to get rid of the incinerator if voted in. So why on earth should we believe this latest bit of rubbish from him? And I simply cannot get to grips with the stupidity of the Councillors who cannot see the irony in Nobbsie, that strange LabCon chimera telling all and sundry that no-one would get any services at all anywhere in Norfolk if the Council shelled out £25 million but is now up on his hind legs telling everyone how they are going to spend £169 million of Council money on subsidising this expensive toy? Can none of the Councillors count? Here is your GCSE question for the day. Which is more pound coins piled on top of one another. £25 million or £169 million? Think hard and you can use a calculator. I realise the majority of the councillors and certainly none of the cabinet will answer this correctly but have a go anyway. They might think education is improving in Norfolk.

    Report this comment

    alecto

    Thursday, October 31, 2013

  • For those eager to read the list - splash the cash and buy of copy of the EDP today. For reasons the paper's editor can no doubt explain, the yes voters are in a bold font.

    Report this comment

    G_of_Norwich

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

  • I know of technologies that can better and more environmentally process waste, and can disenfranchise the Cory Plant- it will take time, but it can be done- just make sure the council don't get your waste be forming local co-operatives to use it and sell it.

    Report this comment

    Alan Wilson

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

  • Where is Dickens..? Would love to see his pontications...

    Report this comment

    Scooby

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

  • EFW was only ever going to be a winner with the PFI credits. At £596 million with a steaming turd of hidden extras set to pop out at any moment, the council will be dragged down by this awful burden for the next quarter of a century.

    Report this comment

    Mr Cameron Isaliar

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

  • Reprocessing is a more meaningful description than recycling.It indicates that a lot of energy goes into recycling.Why are recycled goods dearer,because of reprocessing ! Reuse is better.

    Report this comment

    bedoomed

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

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