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Balfour Beatty EfW contract details to be revealed after ruling

Details of Balfour Beatty’s £500m contract to build an energy-from-waste plant in Gloucestershire look set to be made public after a ruling by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

The ICO called on Gloucestershire County Council to publish details, such as bid costs and capital expenditure figures, of the deal it signed with the Urbaser / Balfour Beatty JV (UBB) to build and operate the Javelin Park EfW.

The decision came despite the council arguing that the details would reveal UBB’s “inner playbook” and represent a disadvantage for contract opportunities it was currently tendering for.

The council must now publish the extra details before the end of July or risk legal proceedings.

In 2012, Gloucestershire County Council signed a £500m deal with UBB to design, build and operate the Javelin Park EfW incinerator facility near Haresfield.

Work did not begin on the plant until 2015 following planning challenges, with UBB and the council revising the 2012 project plan and updating its financial agreements.

Accountant EY was recruited to carry out analysis of the updated costs to see if the revised deal provided value for money for the council.

Last year, the council published a redacted version of the contract.

However, one local resident argued the publication did not provide enough details to assess whether the contract was value for money and called on the council to publish the EY report.

In an appeal to the ICO, the resident argued that the EY report included important details of the revised agreements between the council and UBB and needed to be made public.

The appeal has now been partially successful, with the ICO ruling that the council was wrong not to disclose some of the information in the report.

The ICO’s judgement said: “The commissioner’s decision is that the council wrongly applied the exemption to some of the information within the report.

“It is impossible for the public to be fully aware of the overall value for money of the project in the long term if it is unable to analyse the full figures regarding costs and price estimates which the council was working from at the time of the revised project plan.”

A list of details the council must now disclose include bid costs, the price UBB will get per tonne of waste it processes, and the price third parties will pay for electricity from the plant.

The Javelin Park project has been met with stiff resistance from local residents who believe the deal signed by the council will lead to heavy costs for the taxpayer.

The council says the incinerator, which will be completed next year, will save taxpayers £100m over its lifecycle.

Responding to the ICO decision, a spokeswoman for Gloucestershire County Council said: “We recognise the public interest in this matter and have complied with all previous ICO requests; however, the legislation and guidance is unclear.

“We have to make sure we balance the needs of our contractors for commercial sensitivity with the desire to provide as much information as possible into the public domain.

“It is important for us to make sure that we get the best possible deal for Gloucestershire taxpayers.

“There are details in the contract and the report which could undermine our ability to do this. We will be going through the latest ICO ruling and will respond to it in due course.”

Readers' comments (2)

  • judging by past EFW projects if I was BB I would pull out quick, let the residents who clearly believe they have the knowledge to price such a complex infrastructure job get on with it!! or maybe back to small bins in the back garden burning their own waste would be the outcome!!!

    PM

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