Millions Set Aside As Clock Ticks Down On Kirklees Waste Plant

Clr Andrew Cooper, Leader of the Green Group on Kirklees Council.

Tens of millions of pounds has been allocated towards tackling household waste in Kirklees as the clock ticks down on Huddersfield’s incinerator.

The council will set aside £11m in the run-up to its current waste contract expiring in 2022-23.

The authority also aims to spend £33m on what it describes as “new capital investment” to support its waste strategy requirements over the next five years.

It is not yet clear what the money will be spent on.

But Green campaigners say options could include:
•anaerobic digestion, which uses food and garden waste to create natural gas to create heat and power.
•electrically-powered refuse wagons.
•community recycling points.
•setting up a community heating network to take hot water generated by the incinerator to potentially heat local buildings.

Kirklees’ 25-year contract with French-owned Suez – formerly Sita – runs out in 2023.

The incinerator plant at Hillhouse burns waste to turn rubbish into electricity.

Operational since 2002, the incinerator cost £35m and was funded via a private finance initiative (PFI).

When the council’s current PFI waste contract ends on March 31, 2023 the authority has accepted that there will be “an immediate fallout” of a current annual PFI government grant allocation of £3.2m from 2023-24 onwards.

In light of what it calls “the known financial implications” of the expiry of the PFI contract the council will set aside £11m to support the development of its waste management strategy.

The cash will come from council reserves topped up by money from other budgets.

The £11m spending was put to a meeting of Kirklees’ Cabinet, the executive decision-making body of councillors, last week.

It is expected to be approved by full Council in July.

Kirklees announced its wide-ranging recycling revamp in January.

The remodelling of the service comes as part of a national project steered by the government, which includes separating food waste to help reduce greenhouse gases from landfill.

Plans to oblige councils to separate food waste, with the mandatory ruling coming in by 2023, were announced in December.

In outlining the breadth and scope of the overhaul Karl Battersby, the council’s Strategic Director, Economy and Infrastructure, said ending the authority’s contract with Suez would be expensive.

He warned: “This will require significant investment. ‘Do nothing’ is not an option.”

Figures released last December revealed just 27% of household waste in Kirklees is recycled, down from 30% in 2016/17.

The level – 17% below the national average and 21% worse than neighbouring Calderdale – has seen Kirklees become the 25th worst borough at recycling out of about 350 across the country.

Clr Andrew Cooper (Green, Newsome), whose ward includes the incinerator site, said allocating the £11m to cover the PFI contract meant the council was “paying more money to stand still”.

He commented: “The PFI will run the length of the contract. When the government ends PFI support we will have a new set of arrangements to pay £3.2m a year.

“We will be paying more money to stand still because that support from government will no longer be there.”

He questioned how much life was left in “energy for waste” plants.

“The Sita waste contract was seen as an extremely good deal but it was of its time.

“We got a good deal then but the expectations are much greater now.

“We are behind the times.”

More from Local