Why has Essex County Council built up so much reserves for waste?

Politics / Mon 17th Jun 2019 pm30 02:23pm

By Local Democracy Reporter
Piers Meyler

THE Essex county councillor responsible for finance for the county has refused to explain publically why the council has built up reserves of more than £103 million for waste.

Since 2007/08 the county council (ECC) has increased the amount of reserves it has held for waste provision by more than £90m – from around £11m.

But when Cllr Gagan Mohindra was asked at a policy scrutiny meeting at the end of May by Cllr James Abbott over the huge restricted waste reserves, he said it must remain private.

Cllr Abbott said: “In the restricted reserves the waste reserves has now topped more than £100 million. And we know in the budget that the forecast is to be sharply upwards in the coming years.

“That total is now around half of the total restricted reserves.”

ECC says it needs reserves of almost £100 million to meet obligations of the 25-year life of the PFI contract, signed in 2012, that envisaged a plant built and operated by UBB capable of annually treating up to 420,000 tonnes of residual waste, trade waste, bulky waste, street sweepings and waste from household waste recycling centres, along with a smaller proportion of local trade waste from Essex and Southend.

However it has refused to elaborate what any “contingency arrangements” could be.

Cllr Mohindra said: “As the councillor is aware this is an ongoing legal issue and I am uncomfortable discussing this further in a public forum.”

When challenged that the cabinet member for waste had previously told Cllr Abbott that the waste reserve was nothing to do with ongoing court case, Cllr Mohindra said he would take it in private.

An Essex County Council spokesperson said: “ The county council takes financial management very seriously and reviews the position in respect of its reserves each year taking into account its risks, liabilities and future plans.

“This may require investment to ensure the authority can not only meet its statutory requirements but also its ambitious plans for Essex as set out in its organisational strategy.”

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