Last month a contract held between private company New Earth Solutions (NES) and the Scottish Borders Council was terminated by councilors. NES had been contracted to build and operate a so-called gasification and pyrolysis plant to deal with 25,000 tonnes of waste a year, and the decision to terminate the contract was taken in private after it emerged that the firm had neither the technology nor the funding to deliver the project.
The decision has meant that the council has had to write off £2m already spent on the project, and has now got to go back to the drawing board to rethink its integrated waste management strategy, and to comply with national and EU targets to boost recycling and cut to zero the amount of biodegradable waste going to landfill by 2021.
Former councilor Andrew Farquhar has called for the Scottish Borders Council’s handing of the contract, as well as the £2m write-off to be referred to the public spending watchdog Audit Scotland.
Despite this, council leader David Parker has rejected this call for the Council’s handling of the contract to go before the watchdog. Mr Farquhar insists that “Something has gone seriously wrong with £2m of taxpayers’ money down the drain with nothing to show for it and all this happened on Mr Parker’s watch.” He further added “In these circumstances, he should desist from making any further decisions on how this matter will be investigated and refer it to Audit Scotland for their consideration.”
Councillor Parker has responded and iterated that ‘it was highlighted at the very beginning that, as the council was procuring a waste treatment plant at the cutting edge of technology and was on of the first rural councils in Scotland to be involved in this process, there was always a risk it might not be possible to achieve the outcome that was hoped for.”
“Council officers have worked very closely with independent advisors and with NES and the decision not to proceed was taken after significant officer and elected member scrutiny. I thus see no reason to refer this matter to Audit Scotland.”
What remains to be seen is in which direction the council will now go in tackling their waste management strategy, but it is going to be crucial that the council has the backing of community and to ensure they have support in their decisions as they work towards zero waste.