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Fenland District Council

Fenland Council spends £88,000 in a year in bid to halt £450m incinerator

Fenland Council admits incinerator defeat

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Fenland District Council is facing an initial legal bill of £88,000 in a failed bid to halt the £450m Medworth energy from waste development in the town. This sum only covers the financial year 2023/2024 and the council gives no indication of more recent legal expenditure including payments to King’s counsel to review the possibility of a judicial review.

The figure is revealed for the first time in a report going to the Cabinet meeting on July 15.

Legal costs are covered briefly in the report prepared by Peter Catchpole, corporate director and chief finance officer and Mark Saunders, chief accountant.

Fenland Council has been forced to admit defeat in its battle to stop the incinerator from being built.

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On the eve of the general election the council Fenland District Council said it was “extremely disappointed” with the decision to refuse our application for judicial review on the Medworth Energy from Waste development.

Site for massive Wisbech incinerator ,  Wisbech Saturday 24 February 2024. Picture by Terry Harris.

Site for massive Wisbech incinerator , Wisbech. Picture by Terry Harris.

“Given the judge’s recognition that there were several deficiencies in the Secretary of State’s decision to approve the incinerator, the council was clearly justified in pursuing an application for judicial review,” said the council.

“The council is now giving careful thought to the judge’s reasons for the refusal and is taking further expert legal advice as to potential next steps and looking at all available options.”

However, on Tuesday the council admitted legal advice from “experienced King’s Counsel barristers” left them with no option other than to stop any further legal challenges.

“The legal advice was very clear that there are no further realistic grounds to oppose the incinerator decision with a judicial review,” the council said in a statement.

“Therefore, after much reflection and difficult discussions, the council has resolved that although entirely justified to challenge the case to this point, the prospect of overturning the judge’s decision is not realistically possible”.

The council promised to “work tirelessly throughout the development consent process to ensure that our community’s voices are heard and that the effects of the incinerator are minimised to the greatest possible degree”.

The report listing legal costs forms part of the outturn (income and expenditure) for the council for 2023/24 which shows the reasons for variations in the budgeted costs.

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2019: MP Steve Barclay visits Algores Way, Wisbech, to highlight his campaign to stop a mega incinerator being built there. Mr Barclay has been a long term and persistent critic of the incinerator.

2019: MP Steve Barclay visits Algores Way, Wisbech, to highlight his campaign to stop a mega incinerator being built there. Mr Barclay has been a long term and persistent critic of the incinerator.

“The council’s provisional general fund services net deficit is £212,425 for the financial year 2023/24,” says the report.

“This is an improvement of £335,927 compared to the projected deficit of £548,352 as reported to council in February 2024.

“The deficit of £212,425 will be funded from the budget equalisation reserve in accordance with the decision made by council at their meeting on 9th January 2020 which established this reserve and approved that any underspend/deficit at financial year-end be transferred to this reserve.

“As at 31 March 2024, this reserve has a balance of £1,654,142.”.

The report says the general fund balance at 31 March 2024 “remains at the approved minimum level of £2m.

“Given the scale of the challenges faced by the council in 2023/24, the financial position at the year-end represents a considerable achievement and demonstrates the focus from members and officers throughout the council in reducing the projected deficit”.

The report adds: “As a result of continuing prudent financial management and improved income received, the council is in an improved position, compared with the projections in February 2024, to deal with the significant ongoing financial challenges in 2024/25 and over the medium term.”

The council’s draft statement of accounts 2023/24 (subject to external audit) is expected to be signed off by the corporate director and chief finance officer by 31 July 2024.

“Although this is later than the date required by the Accounts and Audit Regulations (31 May 2024), this will not impact on the external audit of the 2023/24 accounts by EY who have scheduled their audit to start towards the end of October 2024 with a view of completing their work by the end of 2024.

“In addition, the formal process of completing the 2022/23 accounts work has not yet been completed as is the case for many authorities nationally.

“The statement of accounts 2023/24 will incorporate all the outturn figures, revenue and capital presented in this report.”

 

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