With the news this week that Eric Pickles has decided that local democracy isn’t worth a damn, and that an Incinerator should be built at Javelin Park anyway, then the big question is what next? Are we just resigned to the fact that the incinerator is to be built? Who should take responsibility for the fact that the Gloucestershire County Planning committee has been ignored? Is it the time, as Mark Hawthorne has said, for us to “just accept it” and get on with it?
In theory, the Council can pass a motion to cancel the contract with UBB, and then go on to procure a different solution. There are two significant hurdles to this, firstly the Tories are determined to see this through and I think if a vote was to come in the chamber, every single Tory Councillor would be whipped in with no excuses whatsoever and therefore the chances of it succeeding are slim. Secondly, it will be very costly to break the contract now, especially as there is no reasoning to hang it on, therefore GCC would be completely liable. In real terms, its going to cost residents money to cancel the contract.
But just as importantly, there is a significant message been sent from the Coalition Government here about what it thinks of Local Government decision making and its localism agenda. The Tories, propped up by the Lib Dems, have essentially stuck two fingers up at Gloucestershire County Council Planning Committee, and I am very disappointed that they have done so. It has been mentioned in the press, but I think the Leader of the Council will be put to task about his role in representing the wishes of the Council. There are two significant issues, firstly that the planning committee, a cross party, non political group, voted against it, secondly that Council were concerned that the appeal was not fought vigorously enough by GCC representatives and a vote was passed to provide better representation. The leader is the leader of the council, not just the Administration and is bound to represent the views of the council. Now either he didn’t do that very effectively, or if he did, then was blatantly ignored. In either case, they are not a ringing endorsement of leadership!
We know there are other options, the plan B working group (A Labour initiative) have reported back on alternatives, so could there be scope for discussion with UBB about how to incorporate elements of the factors within the report? I would welcome a push in that direction. Also, the decision by Eric Pickles can be challenged, but we need to find legal grounds to do so and on reading the judgement, I think there are a couple of grey areas, but nothing glaring.
All we know is that whatever happens, a “do nothing” or just cancelling the contract is not an option, but I do think there are other options are possible, this shouldn’t be “It”.
All in all its pretty depressing that Local Democracy has been shafted in such a callous way.