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Lorna slaps down ‘plot’ by Tories to embarrass council over cash support for Wisbech incinerator legal fight

Cllr Count seemed unaware that at no time has Fenland Council asked for financial support.

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Fenland Conservatives used the extraordinary tactic of ‘public question time’ to let a young district councillor falsely accuse Cambridgeshire County Council of not getting its cheque book out to fund opposition to a £450m mega incinerator at Wisbech. 

Cllr Lucie Foice-Beard, a Fenland district councillor, claimed the county council had failed to co-operate in the investigation of a possible judicial review of the Government’s decision to allow the incinerator to be built.

“However, Cambridgeshire County Council refused to do so,” she told today’s meeting of the council at New Shire Hall.

Cllr Foice-Beard appeared in person to make the claim that “Cambridgeshire County Council has also failed to respond to Fenland District Council in a request to share any costs of a judicial review.

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Cllr Lucie Foice-Beard claimed “Cambridgeshire County Council has also failed to respond to Fenland District Council in a request to share any costs of a judicial review”.

Cllr Lucie Foice-Beard claimed “Cambridgeshire County Council has also failed to respond to Fenland District Council in a request to share any costs of a judicial review”.

“Why has the county council gone back on its resolution to do everything in its power to oppose the incinerator?”

Her eye brow raising attack was followed up later when Wisbech county councillor Samantha Hoy also accused the county council of not providing financial support to Fenland Council.

“At what point has county council committed a single penny to help fight this and I hope they will be forthcoming,” she said.

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Meanwhile in another part of the chamber at New Shire Hall, Alconbury, county council Conservative opposition leader Steve Count was preparing his own response.

But not to other county councillors.

At 10.44am, just after Cllr Foice-Beard had spoken, Cllr Count turned to @X (formerly Twitter) to tell his 356 followers that “Liberal Democrats trying to walk away from commitment to mega incinerator at Wisbech by putting all onus on the district council at this stage”.

Cllr Count seemed unaware that at no time has Fenland Council, where he chairs the conduct committee, had asked anyone, including Cambridgeshire County Council, for financial support.

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Both members of the ‘twitterati’ Cllr Steve Count and Cllr Samantha Hoy


Both members of the ‘twitterati’ Cllr Steve Count and Cllr Samantha Hoy

All got short thrift from Cllr Lorna Dupre, chair of the county council environment and green investment committee.

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She was emphatic that the county council remained opposed to the incinerator and the county council chief executive had expressed continued opposition in a letter sent to the chief executive of Fenland Council two days after the decision was announced.

She also made it clear that Fenland District Council is yet to ask a single penny from the county council to support its possible case for a judicial review.

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“Our understanding of the wording of a Fenland District Council motion is that they would seek counsel’s opinion then approach us to see if we would consider supporting a judicial review,” said Cllr Dupre.

She said if Fenland Council finds there is a “reasonable prospect of success” and Cambridgeshire County Council “is advised accordingly then our officers will be in a position to advise us accordingly”.

Cllr Dupre wondered if the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, Wisbech Town Council, Norfolk Council and West Norfolk Council – all opposed to the incinerator – had yet been asked for financial support.

“This council has responded to Fenland District Council entirely constructively and once counsel’s opinion is shared with us, we will respond,” said Cllr Dupre.

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“At this point in time there has been no response from Fenland District Council so there is nothing to review.”

Clock ticking on possible legal challenge to £450m Wisbech incinerator

In a follow up question, Cllr Foice-Beard said: “So to clarify you are pretty much committed to do everything in your power to support Fenland District Council with regards to the incinerator?”.

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Cllr Dupre repeated that once Fenland Council’s legal counsel had given a verdict on whether there is a reasonable prospect of a judicial review being successful, only then would the county council be able to respond accordingly.

“The suggestion this council has done anything other than behave cooperatively and positively is without foundation and a distraction from what should be our shared endeavour in supporting the people of Wisbech in this difficult situation,” said Cllr Dupre.

Fenland council leader Chris Boden, also a county councillor but absent today, said last week that FDC “has instructed pre-eminent infrastructure barristers to review the lengthy decision and to research the legal grounds on which a judicial review could be launched.

“The council remains absolutely committed to doing everything in its power to fight this decision on behalf of local people”.

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