More independent voices will broaden the financial debate

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EDITOR – I am a new reader to your paper but I have found the last two issues most interesting, and in particular the recent letter from Mr Stuart Hogg.

I was elected as an independent district councillor for Fiskerton and Langworth last May for three reasons.

Local issues topped the list, living on the patch was another, and a promise to question how and where our money is spent was equally important.

Unfortunately, the latter is not always so easy.

At the moment I am of mixed opinions on the £145 million pounds to be spent on the incinerator plant at North Hykeham, a project the county council will be locked into for 30 years.

I have read the glossy brochures and how it will save us vast amounts of money in the future, but I do have questions to which I cannot get answers. I have questions too on the actual bill, having seen reports on the web that it will weigh in at a massive £185 million.

Either way it is a huge amount of cash and I would like my mind putting at rest that the project will be viable.

Lincolnshire County Council boasts it is the council’s biggest ever financial project. I am worried it could be the county’s biggest ever white elephant.

To use Mr Hestor’s words, it could be a ticking financial time bomb.

Why? Well just like the 110 rebel Tory MPs’ anxiety over the cost of wind farms, the incinerator is a similar fashion accessory. I am against neither, but they must stand the test of the open market.

Shale gas is bringing down gas prices (Farmers Weekly last week) and I am told the cheapest way of harnessing methane gas is using landfill sites.

Methane gas is between 16 and 20 times worse than CO2 for global warming but is a useful fuel for powering buses. Some of the Stagecoach buses in Lincoln are powered this way. So who is to say that landfill will continue to be such an expensive way of getting rid of rubbish in the future?

Recycling is on the increase and landfill has its uses. Current proposals to change food labelling could, even in Lincolnshire, reduce tonnages of food waste currently sent to landfill by perhaps 10 to 20 thousand tons. How will that affect the arithmetic?

It is the escalating landfill tax that makes landfill expensive. At £64 per ton it is a magic way for the Government to take more and more money out of our pockets.

Is this tax justified? Not in my opinion.

Which raises the question, why spend so much money on a project that will take 30 years to pay back? Schools, hospitals and roads may have a 30-year working life, but for a project so exposed to the winds of change I would have thought a payback of five to 10 years would be more appropriate.

Unfortunately, the story gets worse. To make the incinerator pay the contractor has tied in all the black bin waste from across the county for the next 30 years. Just like a PFI contract.

Perhaps 30 to 40 per cent of this black bin waste could be used in local anaerobic digester plants. Such plants could get rid of all kinds of locally-produce waste, make a profit from electricity sales and reduce our waste bill. But they can’t, all WLDC black bin waste has to go to North Hykeham.

We lose out. We are tied in to a private contractor for 30 years and lose our freedom to search for cheaper methods of waste disposal.

The money involved could have bought no end of swimming pools, or helped keep the 30 day centres open for the most severely disadvantaged, special needs, members of our society, which is even more important.

Just as Middle Rasen is to be merged into the Market Rasen ward, Fiskerton and Langworth ward is to be consumed into its larger neighbour, Cherry Willingham, in the next district elections. It will then be even more difficult for adventurous councillors to raise awkward questions.

There is, however, a solution: more single seat wards and lots of independent candidates.

With more independent councillors on both the county council and in West Lindsey it will be far easier to broaden the debate on tricky financial and electoral issues.

Chris Darcel,

Holmfield, Fiskerton