The latest “community update” from Beddington incinerator operators Viridor gives pride of place to a former member of the BNP.
The news update for what Viridor insists on passing off as an “Energy Recovery Facility” – it will burn thousands of tons of rubbish, but doesn’t yet have any customers for the heat it will generate – features a photograph of three blokes in hard hats and hi-viz jackets doing their best Bob the Builder impersonations, the third of whom is now a Kingston councillor, Terry Paton.
But Paton has a dark secret, that before the ex-copper signed up as a true-blue Tory and became a local councillor, he was a paid-up member of the racist British National Party.
Viridor’s latest piece of expensive PR bull-shittery was distributed by post to at least 5,000 households in the fall-out zone from the waste disposal company’s impending incinerator, homes located mainly around Beddington, in Sutton, on the borough boundary with Croydon.
Viridor was awarded the contract to operate the incinerator at Beddington Lane from the South London Waste Partnership, formed by the local councils in Kingston, Sutton, Merton and Croydon. The contract is worth £1 billion over the 25-year operating period proposed for the incinerator, so the PR budget probably has a fair amount of slack in it.
Shame, then, that Viridor’s public relations whizz kids didn’t do a little bit of background checking into the identities of the three stooges that they got on the incinerator site last month for their photoshoot.
There in the (somewhat staid and staged) picture is someone from Viridor and another suit from the builders. But it is Paton’s presence which makes the already toxic development of the incinerator seem almost too hot to handle.
Paton is a relative newcomer to the “Joint Waste Committee” of the SLWP, since Kingston Council has only been back into Tory control since May 2014, giving them the two places on the contract-awarding committee.
Paton does not deny that he was once a member of the BNP. He tries to explain it away as being all part of some “research” he was doing for the private investigations firm that he used to run.
“I was employed to get information – to get in and get out. I was paid for that information,” the incinerator’s newest biggest supporter told a local paper when challenged about his BNP membership.
“I was asked to get information about a person. The person I was trying to get to – I was advised the only way to get that information was to join the BNP.
“It is difficult to get into because I am supposed to be sworn to secrecy,” he said. Which is handy.
“Nobody knows other than the people that employed me.” Which actually is untrue, because Paton’s details, and BNP membership, were part of a database which was leaked in 2009, and so that information was available – somewhat inconveniently for Paton – to millions. Paton claimed that he had joined “a number of radical parties and Labour” (notice the implication? Labour’s not a radical party) as part of his investigations.
He claims that he was a member of the BNP for just four weeks. So he must have just been really unlucky that the leaked BNP database had included his details.
“I do not hold those kinds of views. I have never agreed with those kinds of views. I am very much the opposite,” says Paton, a paid-up member of the Conservative Party.
Clearly, life as a Tory in Kingston has its advantages for Paton, who has only been a councillor since a local by-election in Beverley ward in 2013. That vacancy arose after the LibDem incumbent, the Kingston council leader Derek Osbourne, was forced to resign when he was jailed for two years for possessing indecent images of children.
The LibDems in Kingston were, like their colleagues in Sutton who gave the Viridor scheme planning permission, enthusiastic supporters of the Beddington incinerator.
This, of course, had nothing whatsoever to do with £1.2 million of tax-payers’ money being donated to a church in the borough by a charity, Viridor Environmental Credits.
The MP for Kingston at that time was a LibDem, Ed Davey, who rose to the giddy heights of energy minister during the ConDem coalition government of 2010 to 2015. As energy minister, Davey had a role in promoting energy from waste. Or what most people would call incineration.
When he was a minister, Davey visited Sutton, where he enthusiastically viewed the local council’s ambitious plans to heat 19,000 homes from the Viridor incinerator. This ambitious target has since been scaled down to trying to heat as few as 725 homes.
The Viridor largesse in Kingston didn’t do Davey much good when it came to the General Election last May, as he lost his seat just a year after the LibDems lost control of Kingston Council. Luckily for Viridor, the LibDems’ replacements, the Kingston Tories, are continuing the policy of backing the incinerator, just as Labour did in Croydon when they won control of the Town Hall.
Meanwhile, the Conservatives in Sutton remain implacably opposed to the incinerator, but powerless to do anything about it.
In true LibDem fashion, where they make sure that they reward failure, Davey has been knighted since losing his parliamentary seat. “Sir” Edward Davey now works for lobbyists promoting EDF, the French energy group. One of EDF’s key businesses involves disposal of low-level radioactive waste, something which they choose to do by, you’ve guessed it, incineration.
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