Published: 3 January, 2013
by ANDREW JOHNSON
ONE of the biggest-ever contracts in local authority history has been thrown into further chaos after one of only two bidders pulled out at the last minute.
North London Waste Authority (NLWA) – run by seven London boroughs, including Camden – is on the verge of handing out a £4.7bn contract to collect, recycle and burn waste from the boroughs for the next 25 to 35 years.
But after more than a year of negotiations whittled down the firms able to handle such a contract to just two, one has now quit the race at the last minute.
International waste firm Veolia is not giving a reason for its decision. But campaigners believe it is due to the negative publicity that has been gathering pace over its work for Israel on illegally occupied Palestinian land.
The United Nations and charity War on Want both wrote to the councillors – two from each borough – who run the NLWA, urging them not to choose Veolia.
Camden representatives on the NLWA are councillors Phil Jones and Theo Blackwell.
There has also been a vociferous campaign by a group called No To Veolia.
Campaigner Yael Kahn said: “It is absolutely down to the campaign. Without it Veolia would have already pocketed the contract.”
The contract, which will cost Camden taxpayers £600m, has been mired in controversy because all the deliberations are held in secret, even though a vast amount of taxpayers’ cash – enough to buy four nuclear submarines – is at stake.
A decision on which company was going to take the contract was due to have been made last month, but has now been put off until March.
The NLWA’s plan for handling waste in north London was also kicked into touch by a planning inspector last year because it had failed to adequately liaise with boroughs outside London through which the waste will travel.
There has also been concern over the NLWA’s purchase of Pinkham Way, a wooded site in Haringey, for £12.5m two years ago.
It was supposed to be the site of a new waste treatment plant for producing fuel in order to generate electricity but a planning application was withdrawn after the waste strategy plan was kicked out.
Now, after Veolia’s withdrawal the plans for Pinkham Way are up in the air.
A spokesman for Veolia said: “We are not adding anything to the statement from the NLWA.”
Asked if the firm’s decision had anything to do with the negative publicity, he declined to add anything further.
The £4.7bn deal is made up of two contracts – one to dispose of waste and one to make fuel out of it to generate electricity.
Veolia was in the running for both contracts. Now, only FCC/Skanska – a consortium of Spanish and Swedish construction companies – is in the running for the waste services.
A consortium of German power company E.ON and Wheelabrator, a subsidiary of the giant US company Waste Management Inc, is bidding for the fuel creation and incineration project.
In a statement released on December 21, the NLWA said: “The North London Waste Authority has received notification from Veolia Environmental Services that they will not be submitting final tenders for either NLWA’s waste services or fuel use contracts.”
It added that the tender process would continue to determine if remaining bidders could offer “value for money”. It is unclear what will happen if this is not the case.
The statement added that the planning application for a new treatment plant in Pinkham Way was being withdrawn.