IT IS astounding that after spending hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers money fighting to keep key elements of the Javelin Park Incinerator Contract secret, that Gloucestershire County Council managed to release the whole lot by failing to properly redact their Freedom of Information Act responses.

This failure is embarrassing: but the real story here is about the arrogance of a small group of councillors who believe that they should be above scrutiny – and who have signed the county up to 25 years of burning rubbish in a way that channels large profits from taxpayer to private companies and banks, whilst undermining incentives for recycling.

A look at the insecure documents shows that this contract has been bad for the environment from the start, and that the value for money case has been eroded with every national policy change and planning delay. If recycling rates increase to 70 per cent, the financial benefits of this contract are all but gone – only propped up by additional injections of cash from the council into the project last year.

If we had been able to debate the details in public, we would have seen that there were real alternatives that made financial and environmental sense.

But fighting to keep the contract secret, the authority have ploughed on with a white elephant project.

GCC claims that it needs to keep the value for money case, the price they will pay per tonne of waste to UBB, and the way costs from planning delays or protests are distributed between council and contractor secret so that they can “get the best prices for taxpayers in the future”

But if they can’t even secure the contract – what confidence can we have in their claims to have negotiated the best deal?

That’s why in running as the Green Party county council candidate for Minchinhampton division, I’ll be calling for a full inquiry into how we got here, and the options to renegotiate the contract.

We need full transparency over decisions to put public services in private hands, and when council services are contracted out, we need strong and effective contract negotiation and management that can stand up to public scrutiny.

Rachel Smith

Prospective Green county council candidate for Minchinhampton