With placards declaring Waste PFIs a waste of public money and a Policy Failure Incentive, a group of protesters representing waste campaign groups from throughout the country gathered in front of the Treasury as the Project Review Group arrived to decide the fate of several Waste PFI applications.

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It seems that release of the Project Review Group’s decisions has been embargoed until the 6th June, with a Treasury official explaining:

A formal announcement on whether or not the project is awarded PFI money today is not expected until after the current European election campaign.

The protest attracted attention from the national trade press and from some local newspapers. Under the title Warwickshire PFI plans come under fire LetsRecycle call attention to protesters’ criticisms of the Project Transform bid:

…the environmental group has said that a 54% recycling rate achieved by Warwickshire county council, and waste tonnages running below those outlined in the partnership’s funding application, mean that the suggested facility does not need to be built.

The article continues:

Explaining why Friends of the Earth opposed the plans, the group’s Nuneaton waste campaigner, Keith Kondakor, said: “The official projections for the Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire project – to be discussed at the meeting – have inflated the waste produced in 2008/9 by 50,000 – 100,000 tonnes.

“This will lead to a contract for an oversized waste disposal facility, wasting around £125 million over 25 years. This will in turn undermine the local recycling in the region,” he added

Mr Kondakor also claimed that the councils could instead use the existing 240,000 tonne-a-year capacity Coventry incinerator to treat the waste past the proposed 2016 swap over to a new facility that was envisaged in their plans.

He said: “It would be better to wait a couple of years and when they do replace it they should be looking to replace it with something smaller.”

And, he pointed out that there was an agreement in place for 40,000 tonne-a-year of Warwickshire’s residual waste to be sent to Staffordshire county council’s proposed EfW facility at Four Ashes, which is expected to be up-and-running by 2013.

And in a feature article, entitled Protest against new Coventry incinerator goes to London, the Coventry Telegraph reports how “Millions of pounds of public money could be committed to the project if it gets the thumbs-up…”

Once again Friends Of The Earth campaigners fears that “the giant incinerator could become an expensive white elephant say objectors to the scheme are being silenced” are explored.

The Coventry Telegraph quotes Keith Kondakor, Warwickshire’s Friends Of The Earth waste campaigner, as saying:

I would like to have a discussion with the Treasury about this but I’m not allowed to do that. If this was planning permission for a garden shed or a conservatory you could talk for three minutes at a public meeting and have your say. But for a massive and important waste PFI, no one can talk.

This panel is highly undemocratic. The only scrutiny is by the very organisations that stand to gain from the funding of the project. The plan doesn’t make sense. It’s a financial disaster for Coventry. It’s based on wrong assumptions about the amount of waste being created but no one is allowed to object.

Regarding the protest, Keith added:

It’s not a mass protest, it’s a symbolic protest, demanding that the process becomes more open to proper scrutiny.There has never been a better time to call for more scrutiny to avoid wasting public money.

For more on Local Authority Funding and Waste PFI contracts, visit the DEFRA website, and of course keep an eye our for Minutes of meetings and other information from the Treasury website.

The Spring edition of Interface, produced by Manches, may also be of interest. This includes the following paragrpah:

It has been suggested that this is at odds with the philosophy underlying PFI. But does this matter? The role of the senior lender has become one of the policemen of PFI, particularly before contract award and during the construction phase of a project. HM Treasury has hired members of the banking community to form part of the new unit and carry out due diligence on projects in the absence of an external senior lender. Although this is a possible solution further questions arise. Will the contractor be as concerned about project delivery when its relationship with the funder and the public sector authority is indistinguishable? How can the public sector continue to ensure risk transfer? While there is no one solution to these issues, possible approaches are outlined below.

Download – Manches’ Spring edition of Interface [PDF]

3 Responses to “PFI Protest at Treasury”

  1. from The Scottish Environmental Services Association (“SESA”)
    [The sectoral trade association for Scotland’s managers of waste and secondary resources]:

    http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S3/committees/finance/inquiries/capInvest/c_invest-SESA%20-%20RF.pdf

    “PFI was designed to deliver and maintain large-scale infrastructure rather than complicated long-term services contracts. The structure of PFI contracts has subsequently been ill-suited to the provision of long-term integrated waste management solutions. The additional complexity involved in delivering multiple facilities at different times providing a suite of activities is a further problem not addressed in standard PFI contracts. The provision of waste-specific derogations has helped to improve the flexibility associated with waste PFI contracts but more could be done in this regard.”

  2. http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/d/prg_minutes_190509.pdf Minutes of the PRG meeting held on 19 May 2009 at HM Treasury show that the PRG approved £129.1 million of PFI credits for Solihull MBC, Coventry City Council and Warwickshire County Councils’ ‘Project Transform’

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