At last night’s Full Council meeting 2 motions were tabled, by Labour and UKIP, which called on the Council Cabinet to terminate the contract with Resource Recovery Solutions. the contractor for the Sinfin Incinerator. Despite the wish by the Conservative administration, and the Legal Officer, for these debates to be held in private, this resolution was voted out; both motions were discussed in public and both were carried.
Whilst these were motions, and not decisions, and so they do not formally change anything, they are powerful statements of intent and direction by the Full Council to the Council Cabinet.
Public vs Private debate
When the agenda was set, there was an item just prior to the motions which stated:
“To consider a resolution to exclude the press and public during consideration of the following items”.
This resolution was discussed early in the Council’s proceedings. The Legal Officer repeated his statement from the previous meetings which were held in Private about the risk of confidential information being expressed in public which could give rise to potential damages to the Council, and possibly individuals. It was a stark warning!
Cllr Shanker started the debate and, whilst “having regard” for the Legal Officer’s advice was clear that there was no risk of confidentiality being breached, and that it was only right and proper that such an important debate was held in public. A number of people from the Sinfin and Osmaston area were in the public gallery and were keen to witness the discussion.
Further representations were heard from other Labour Group members and Alan Graves of UKIP, all calling for a vote against the resolution to hold it in private.
Following May’s elections, the Chamber is finely balanced. No one party can outvote the rest ( unlike previously). With a full attendance, Labour and UKIP ( or Lib Dems) together, can pass a vote with 26 seats, against 25. It had been announced under “Apologies” that 2 Labour Councillors were not in attendance – this meant, now, that , ordinarily the resolution would be passed, and the debate would be held in private. However, unexpectedly, Cllr Marshall ( Conservative), and Ruth Skelton (Lib Dem) abstained and, with the absence of Cllr Naitta (Lib Dem) this meant that the resolution was rejected, and that the debate would be held in Public!
Cllr Shanker introduced the Labour group motion and summarised some of the history and the contractual position which allows for the termination of the contract, after 30 September 2018, given that, at that date, the plant has not been certified to run. This was followed up by a number of impassioned speeches from the Labour Group and UKIP. Whilst the core argument to cancel is contractual there is a strong and compelling position with regard to the Health and Well-Being of residents; not just in the immediate vicinity but potentially across wider areas of the City.
Cllr Peatfield, the Sinfin Labour Councillor, chillingly, and powerfully presented this angle. Her full speech is below:
“Deaths Brought Forward.
This term has been bandied about for so long in this campaign that after a while it loses it’s impact. “Oh it’s OK” says RRS, what we mean is “a reduction in life expectancy for those whose health is already seriously compromised”.
Well that’s OK then isn’t it? If they’re dying anyway, what’s 6 months?
I’ll tell you what 6 months is. 5 years ago I received a letter from my estranged Father telling me he had 6 months to live. That 6 months equated to more time together, he could have met his grandchildren, we could have talked, reminisced, forgiven… unfortunately I only had ONE short month with him. He was too poorly to meet his grandchildren. Let me tell you, when you’re dying, 6 months is a gift.
During the discussion, research and consultation on the incinerator pollution was not considered a factor.
The project passed from Labour to Liberal Democrats, to Conservatives and back to Labour… and yes we accept our part. It’s a shame Cllr Graves has seen fit to play political name calling. I can assure him I have a timeline of decisions made, contracts signed and those responsible.
10 years on the narrative has changed. Pollution is Derby is so bad we’ve been targeted as one of the top 5 cities needing a CLEAN AIR ZONE. 10 years later, limping along, plagued with problems, the SMELL and the NOISE paints a very different picture.
In terms of Nitrogen Dioxide pollution, 40 micrograms is the danger zone. 50 guarantees health issues. Derby’s 2017 Air Quality Report showed Osmaston Park Rd was last recorded at 43 micrograms. That’s BEFORE the plant was operational.
BEFORE 60 Waste lorries a day/ 300 per week drive around the ring road and down Sinfin Lane.
On your desk are images of projected wind direction- so you can ALL see which of your wards have been polluted this week.
The maximum Nitrogen Dioxide levels being pumped out over the last 2 weeks is 8.7 microgrammes.
The highest levels are always the closest to the plant. You don’t need to be a mathematician to work out 43 + 8.7 = over the deadly number 50 which will guarantee health issues such as:
Asthma, COPD, Chronic Bronchitis, Emphysema, Lung cancer, Cystic Fibrosis, Pneumonia.
Local resident Susan Boon lives on Victory Rd with her garden backing on to the incinerator. She has terminal cancer. She will lose 6 precious months of life.
DEATHS. BROUGHT. FORWARD.
A council’s responsibility is to PEOPLE and PLACE. Our COUNCIL VISION for Derby is a safe, strong and ambitious City- And I quote;
“A place where people work together, can enjoy GOOD HEALTH and WELLBEING throughout their life and feel that they belong to a THRIVING COMMUNITY.” And I can assure you that Sinfin and Osmaston ARE thriving communities.
I am asking you, BEGGING you to
LISTEN to this robust data, LOOK at the finances, but also HEAR the distress of local residents, FEEL the fear of seriously ill people, but most of all, ASK yourself….
PEOPLE AND PLACE.
Does this incinerator make Derby a thriving PLACE? Are you putting PEOPLE first?
We as a council are collectively to blame for the concept, planning, location and building of this incinerator. We must ALL be collectively responsible for what happens next. 6 months from now it will be the end of March. What will your year in control of Derby City Council look like? Will you have taken responsibility for Susan Boon’s last 6 months?
Council, I commend this motion to you. Please don’t leave your conscience at the door. Put PEOPLE, their HEALTH and WELLBEING first.”
The UKIP motion was introduced by Cllr Evans.
As the Conservative group abstained, both motions were passed.
It seemed like a foregone conclusion that the motions were going to be held in Private, especially given the track record from previous meetings. This would have been a dark day for democracy in this City with a prospect of the entire decision making process being kept behind closed doors. The saga of the Sinfin Incinerator is unique and ultimately is an example of how corporate power, and money, has over-ridden the will of the people, to the detriment of their health and well-being….and in the centre of Derby….not some corrupt 3rd world country with questionable morals and motivations.
As was pointed out in the speeches, the Councillors are in place to represent the interests of the people that elected them. Not the contractor, not the banks, and not Derbyshire County Council. It is important that the Council proceeds carefully, to avoid unnecessary financial impacts, but the ultimate objective and outcome should be crystal clear….to terminate this contract. And that direction was given very clearly, by Full Council, last night.