Following their information request, the Coventry Telegraph is reporting how “taxpayers have forked out £1.7 million on a plan that could be about to go up in smoke“.

A controversial private finance initiative project (PFI) to replace the Whitley incinerator looks set to be scrapped. A Freedom of Information request by the Telegraph has found that cash-strapped local councils have already forked out more than £1.7 million on the plan, including hundreds of thousands on external consultants.

Furious councillors in Coventry and Warwickshire are demanding an immediate stop to the project, which they say is draining £22,000 a week from the public purse.

Coventry city councillor Dave Nellist (Socialist, St Michaels) has fought the PFI plan from the start. He is quoted in the Telegraph article saying:

This must be stopped. Our children’s services budget is suffering a £2.3 million hit next month, so finding we’ve spent this amount on consultants and accounts when our kids are running short of children’s centres and youth workers ­it just cannot be right.

According to the article, more than £1.2 million has been spent on external advisers over the past three years, with the costs met by Coventry City Council (£645,000), Warwickshire County Council (£690,000) and Solihull Borough Council (£403,000).

As has previously been reported, shortly after taking control of the city council in May, Labour leader John Mutton cast doubt on the PFI plan, saying he wanted to refurbish the current plant rather than build a new one, whilst Coventry’s Conservatives, who had spearheaded the PFI plan before losing control of the city council, wrote to George Osborne urging him to pull the plug.

The article goes on to quote other politicians, such as Warwickshire councillor John Whitehouse (Lib Dem, Kenilworth Abbey) who “has tried for months to put a stop to the scheme”:

I’m sorry to say I’m not surprised by these figures. It has been shown to be a massive waste of money.

Councillor Whitehouse says this year’s county council budget included a further £400,000 for the project at a time when Warwickshire’s adult services are facing “swingeing cuts”, adding:

If that spend hadn’t been necessary the cuts would not have had to have been so steep.

And even John Daly, director of Project Transform, the team driving the PFI plan, is quoted as saying:

Looking back we could say maybe it wasn’t a good use of money, but at the time we spent it we were working to a plan approved by the three councils. Until we get formal notification from the councils we must just carry on.

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