The government have been heavily criticised by Labour for the last minute withdrawal of £200 million funds for three energy-from-waste projects which have left their future uncertain.
The local authorities behind the schemes affected are reviewing their viability after the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) decision to scrap promised PFI credits.
The energy minister John Hayes said he had no pre-warning of the move and said he would be taking up the matter with Defra. The Shadow waste minister Gavin Shuker said “Different parts of government aren’t talking to each other and that is having a massive effect on investor confidence.”
He criticised the governments explanation that it could meet landfill reduction targets “[Government] says [energy from waste] is an important contributor to our energy needs, but the mindset is just about scraping over the bar.”
And Shuker hinted that there may be more behind the decision, made just weeks before the Budget announcement. “Questions should be asked about why this money was held back at a time when Defra are chasing their tails to fix things that have gone wrong,” he said.
North Yorkshire, Bradford and Merseyside councils have been hit by the decision and are looking for answers. York Council leader James Alexander wrote to Anne McIntosh MP, urging her to use her role as Environment Committee chair to intervene. He said: “To be told now, with no consultation or warning whatsoever, that government has pulled the plug on this funding gives very little confidence in the decision-making process.”
David Green Bradford Council Leader said he would be seeking a meeting with ministers to explain the decision.
Defra said “This does not necessarily mean the three projects will stop. That will be a decision for the local authorities concerned. We will continue to provide commercial and technical advice to those projects that continue with their procurement process.”