Saturday, 23 August 2014

The S.S.A.I.N press release - 22nd Aug 2014

As the recycling rate of Derby City Council enters an ever steeper decline with the implementation of a £40 garden waste tax news broke on 21st of August that the councils of Derby and Derbyshire have reached closure on a controversial waste incineration plant to be constructed in an area of poor health and deprivation in the heart of Sinfin in the city of Derby.
Sited on an ex tannery and landfill currently subject to local concern regarding anthrax site contamination risking health both on and off site the controversial waste incineration plant has been successfully delayed by campaigners concerned about health impacts from the billion cubic metres of emissions per year from the plant along with the threat of wide spread combustion in the plant of materials which could and should be recycled. This was confirmed in the recent Derbyshire County Council waste draft strategy document on page 16 where it is noted 47% of residual waste in Derbyshire is recyclable waste.
In a bizarre twist supported by Vince Cable the UK Green Investment Bank (GIB) has agreed to invest £64 million in the project even though the plant destroys potentially recyclable material and was show at the 2nd Derby public inquiry to be in its standard electricity only mode an inefficient waste disposal incineration plant which fails to meet the requirements of the R1 formula test of plant efficiency. It is not clear why a green investment bank would invest in such an inefficient plant. The council’s developer – Resource Recovery Solutions has at no point shown any evidence of local customer demand for heat and steam from the plant which would allow the plant to become an R1 compliant recovery facility. It therefore languishes on the bottom tier of the waste hierarchy in disposal.
The council press release implied that any recyclable materials would be extracted at the plant however no documents were put forward at either planning or at either public inquiry showing this to be the case – only that which would not burn would be extracted.
The councils of Derby and Derbyshire are very enthusiastic for the Sinfin plant to go ahead. In the case of Derbyshire County Council this is because they get their rubbish burnt on someone else’s door step and in the case of both councils they will be rewarded for procuring the correct feedstock – as shown in the waste contract with highly lucrative Renewable Obligation Certificates known as ROC’s. It is not clear why such an inefficient plant that sits at the bottom of the waste hierarchy will be rewarded for its failure to be efficient at energy generation and this opens the door for similar inefficient plants to be constructed across the UK. A legacy of the Green Investment Bank will be waste forced down the waste hierarchy with the claims of green energy and sustainable waste management while the reality is large volumes of combustion emissions will be pumped into a poor city community, resources will be destroyed and lives ruined – all in the name of green energy.
Twitter @ssainderby


Monday, 11 August 2014

Show me da money ! show me your accounts !

As a campaigner against a council you can often find a wall of silence when it comes to costs of a service ! councils don't like to tell Joe Public the more complex aspects of their finances because then we would know to much and that's bad if your a council. Councils just like us to pay our taxes and like it - but sometimes we need to peel back the layers to find out just what is lurking under the surface. Thankfully we have a legal right to do so via the Audit Commission Act and other such regulations. This allows the public access to the accounts of your local council in the UK for the previous financial year for a set period. Don't expect your local council to sing this from the rooftops - the notification could be just one newspaper advert in your local paper so keep a look out in the public notices section.

Here in Derby that notification appeared on 13th June 2014 for the period covering the financial year 2013/14 and you had to request to view the accounts by writing to the council (or emailing them). Derby City Councils accounts were open for viewing this year from June 30th to 25th July and it is important to notify the council of when you would like to attend, what you would like to see etc.
Potentially you can view books, deeds, contracts, bills, vouchers and receipts but expect the council to be cagey about certain aspects for example contracts may have sections redacted (blacked out) if considered commercially confidential.

When attending to view the accounts often these days documents are electronic. This stops you from being able to simply rifle through bills and receipts for the period which used to turn up some little gems. Make sure you ask to see a list of the accounts for the specific area of interest you are looking at so you can go through and ask to see bills and receipts of interest - sometimes you have to probe a little and if the accountant seems a bit cagey about something then maybe you have found a murky fact ! What you are doing is turning the tables on the council and instead of them holding you to account your holding them to account ! try and be polite but don't be put off ! it could be that the accountant doesn't have the depth of knowledge on some aspects of the accounts so he or she may have to come back to you at a later date with answers to some of your questions. Having a good relationship with the accountant is key as we want all the answers - not an accountant who clams up.

So there we have it ! if you want to know what your local council spends its money on - sorry your money on - go and find out ! Approach your council and ask what period of the year such viewing takes place. Make a note and look out in the local paper for notification. Remember they wont go out of their way to tell the public - so make a point of finding out officially. When you ask to view the accounts make sure you set out fully the aspects you want to see, attend on time in a respectful manner with paper, pen, pencil, camera and take your time to go through what you want to see. Do not be afraid to ask questions if something is missing or it is hard to understand. The council should be happy to help you out and answer your queries and hopefully copy you the accounts your interested in !
Now you have a new weapon in your armoury which links up nicely with the likes of Freedom of Information - also known as FOI where your questions under FOI can be aimed more carefully due to the financial accounts you have seen first hand.