Ever wondered what a Borough Councillor's role entails?




Ever wondered what a Borough Councillor's role entails?
I did! I was elected as a Councillor for the Lynn South & West ward of the Borough Council of King's Lynn & West Norfolk on 5th May 2011.

A little bit about me:
I have lived in South Lynn for 7 years with my wife and work locally for the Norfolk Primary Care Trust as an IT Manager.

I am a Labour Councillor and whilst the local Labour group made some encouraging gains in the May elections (moving from 4 councillors to 13) we are still very much a minority opposition as the Tories hold 42 of the 64 council seats.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Incinerator Compromise on the cards?

There were interesting whisperings on Twitter at the end of last week that West Norfolk's two MPs (Henry Bellingham & Elizabeth Truss) are brokering some sort of compromise between the County & Borough Councils on the issue of the incinerator. Andrew Sinclair (@andrewpolitics), the BBC's Political Respondent for the East posted the following tweet last Wednesday tea-time, shortly after there was an update on BBC Radio Norfolk:
MPs starting 2 use word "compromise" over incinerator, perhaps let it go ahead but on much smaller scale. 1st sign of a solution?
Followed a short time after, in response to a couple of local tweeters:
i sense mood music is slightly changing. County council won't back down, row becoming bitter and embarrasing 4 tories.... so argument goes let's go back 2drawing board,redesign it,perhaps add sum sweetners and both sides claim victory.
He then added a bit of qualification:
someone very close 2 debate told me today they think public might accept incinerator if smaller
I have followed Mr Sinclair's twitter feed for a number of months and have generally found it very informative and erudite so have no reason to disbelieve his interpretation of what he is being told by knowledgeable sources but I really can't see how a 'compromise' could be reached over this issue. The county council clearly wants an incinerator to be built in King's Lynn, so much so that they agreed to a £20million cancellation clause in the selection process for the proposed contractors and the borough council and local residents have made it abundantly clear that they do not want an incinerator built in Saddlebow (92% of West Norfolk residents having voted no in the referendum earlier this year).

Presumably the county council has done its maths and determined that the proposed incinerator meets the needs of the county's waste disposal for the foreseeable future so a smaller incinerator is not going to meet these needs by itself; on the other hand, you can dress an incinerator up whichever way you want (or in this case dress it down) - it will still be an incinerator. Would the suggestion be that by making the incinerator smaller, the amount of emissions would be reduced and would therefore go some way to alleviating the concerns of the anti-incinerator groups who lobby on the grounds of the ill effects of dioxins? Seems unlikely as a climbdown on these grounds would represent an admission that there is a legitimate concern about the effects on health of the tiny particles that are legally permissible as far as waste incineration is concerned.

Could a climbdown be tagged as an attempt to improve recycling rates (it would be interesting to see what effect the last 6-12 months coverage about the incinerator has done to recycling rates in West Norfolk), a compromise which would see the county council say, "we'll make the incinerator smaller if you promise to do your bit by improving your recycling."

One of my objections to the idea of an incinerator in West Norfolk is that it seems like bad planning to put such a facility on the edge of the county which by comparison with the East of the county is less populous and therefore generates much less in terms of waste (would estimate that over 75% of the county's waste would have to travel over 40-50 miles to reach the facility) and as a result has a much less robust transport network.

Perhaps the idea would be to build smaller incinerators at each end of the county that would fully meet the county's waste disposal needs without having to transport it about so much; Again, can't imagine that the county council would look at such possibilities as the countdown to county council elections (in 2013) begins as this would make them incredibly unpopular in much more than just the handful of wards affected by the proposed incinerator for King's Lynn.

This brings us back to one of the points in Mr Sinclairs tweets, "the row [is] becoming bitter and embarrasing 4 tories". It is difficult to understand how, given that the Tory led borough council and the two local Tory MPs are so vehemently opposed to the incinerator (noticeably since the referendum result was returned - some campaigners recall that Mr Bellingham once heralded the idea of an incinerator in West Norfolk as it would help bring jobs to the area) how can the Tory led County Council continue to be so pig-headed and unfaltering in their objective to build the Willows incinerator.

For my own part, since elected just over a month ago, I have been talking to local campaign groups about the most effective way forward over the coming months, writing to DEFRA to urge them to withhold the PFI credits and trying to encourage the shadow environment ministers to add weight to the argument in the House of Commons.

Recent reports that DEFRA will withhold PFI credits appear to be a little wide of the mark; a departmental response sent to another campaigner recently makes clear that Norfolk County Council effectively obtained public support during the "Future of Norfolk" public consultation and that DEFRA will effectively discount the results of the referendum and only really recognise valid objections raised through the formal planning process. The question is, would it be better to have a considerable number of 'proforma' objections (which may smack of NIMBY syndrome) or a small number of well written, reasonable and valid objections.

The issue is set to dominate the local political landscape for a long while yet!

Follow Andrew Sinclair's Twitter Feed at http://twitter.com/andrewpolitics

Follow my Twitter Feed at http://twitter.com/Gary_McGuinness



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