Holy smoke: Sutton to investigate Viridor ‘gift’ to church

From the site of the Beddington Lane incinerator, Croydon is a lot closer than many might realise, as the landmark Ikea chimneys and Saffron Square tower demonstrate

From the site of the Beddington Lane incinerator, Croydon is a lot closer than many might realise, as the landmark Ikea chimneys and Saffron Square tower demonstrate

Sutton Council has bowed to public pressure and is to look into the controversial £275,000 donation from the charitable arm of Viridor, the industrialists who were granted permission by the local authority to build and operate a massive waste incinerator at Beddington Lane, close to the border with Croydon.

Meanwhile, Nick Mattey, the councillor for Beddington North who bravely blew the whistle on the “gift” from Viridor to a church hall frequently used for LibDem political meetings, faces a disciplinary meeting with the Liberal Democrats tomorrow, where he is expected to be expelled for daring to put the interests of local residents ahead of the party. 

The Standards Committee of the Liberal Democrat-controlled Sutton Council will discuss the Viridor Credits’ generous donation to Holy Trinity church in Wallington at its meeting on September 16, it was announced yesterday.

The £275,000 “gift” was allocated to church hall after three LibDem councillors for Wandle Valley ward had run a campaign promoting the Viridor incinerator.

The Holy Trinity, sponsored by Viridor: signs went up in the past week acknowledging the incinerator operators' largesse in Wallington

Holy smoke: Holy Trinity church, Wallington, sponsored by Viridor

Two of them – John Drage, who stood down as a councillor in 2014, and his wife Elaine Drage – are regulars at the church, and are also “lifelong friends” of the long-time CEO and former chairman of Viridor, Colin Drummond. Purely coincidentally, they would like us to believe.

A third LibDem ward councillor sat as liaison on Viridor Credits at Sutton Council, helping advise how the Viridor largesse should be best spent.

The Drages are long-standing personal sponsors of Tom Brake, the LibDems’ last remaining MP in London, who has also been an enthusiastic promoter the incinerator.

It is expected that Sutton’s Standards Commitee will need to spend some time examining the detail of exactly when John Drage declared his association with Viridor executive Colin Drummond.  Drage had been one of Sutton’s two representatives on the South London Waste Partnership – of which Croydon Council is a member – which ultimately awarded a £1 billion, 25-year incinerator operation contract to… Viridor.

Former Sutton councillor John Drage: no role in the planning decision for the Viridor incinerator. Just best mates with the Viridor CEO

Former Sutton councillor John Drage: best mates with the Viridor CEO

The Sutton Standards Committee has included the matter on its agenda in response to a petition, presented by Mattey to the council in July, with nearly 500 signatures.

The petition called for a full and independent inquiry “into the activities of Viridor Credits, Viridor Limited and their relationship with Sutton Council members.

“We want to know why the Council described the incinerator as an ‘Energy Recovery Facility’ and hid its true purpose. We want the Viridor incinerator stopped as vital information about its purpose and environmental impact of the incinerator has been withheld or the information was delivered in a misleading fashion.”

Mattey and the petitioners concluded: “We believe that the London Borough of Sutton has acted contrary to the Nolan principles of ethical standards in public life and has acted against the best interests of residents of Hackbridge and Beddington.”

Shasha Khan is the leading figure in the Croydon and Sutton Green Party who took a legal challenge against the Beddington incinerator to the High Court, but had his claims turned down.

“In the eyes of the law if a council ‘fetters its discretion’ when assessing a planning application, then a High Court judge would rule against it,” Khan told Inside Croydon. “It is unfortunate that due to the restrictive judicial process our legal team couldn’t introduce the £275,000 donation to our case.”

Khan’s legal team didn’t appeal the “fettering of discretion” grounds to the High Court judge, because at that time they didn’t know about the £275,000 “gift”. In the past, other schemes have had to be stopped when incinerator operators have made donations to local projects with even the potential to influence the formal planning process.

So the findings of the Sutton Standards Committee next week could be crucial.

  • Leading the “case for the prosecution” at tomorrow’s Liberal Democats’ disciplinary meeting seeking the expulsion from the party for Nick Mattey is expected to be the chairman of Sutton Liberal Democrats… John Drage.
  • Read the Sutton Standards Committee agenda here: Public reports pack 16th-Sep-2015 19.30 Standards Committee

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in Business, Church and religions, Croydon Greens, Environment, London-wide issues, Nick Mattey, Outside Croydon, Refuse collection, Shasha Khan, Sutton Council, Tom Brake MP, Waste incinerator and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Holy smoke: Sutton to investigate Viridor ‘gift’ to church

  1. Come on, be charitable! You know that the only reason Viridor made that donation to the Church was in the hope of getting the Cremation Contract, nothing else! Don’t always suspect the worst motives.. (Though you won’t go far wrong doing that in any form of political activity)

  2. Democracy and accountability up in smoke,I would say.Don’t let the other parties off though….strategy all planned under Labour…Tories “innactive” in Sutton and busy beesin GLA and No 10.DEFRA an accessory to the ill health to come,Public Health responsibilities shifted and budgets cut and EVERYBODY denying lethal London air,massive diesel growth with population and deliberate falsification of engine figures by manufacturers.This will be a hell devised in central government,responsibility “devolved” to local government and monitoring disappeared into a tangle of of webpages.We and our children have been turned into expendable drones for the sake of “economic growth” and shareholder profits.

  3. Pingback: Big Demonstration planned after ‘No Corruption’ hits front page | STOP the South London Incinerator

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