The illiberal non-democrats who run Sutton Council clearly have no sense of irony. Or shame.
Today, less than three miles from the site of the industrial-scale incinerator which they permitted to be built at Beddington, Sutton are staging a bit of a Euro-junket, a summit on environmental sustainability with something calling itself the Covenant of Mayors.
The sustainability summit was originally to have been staged in the Secombe Theatre, but that proved unsustainable when the group which took over the running of the venue from the council went bust.
So instead, mayors and local authority officials from across Europe rolled up at the Holiday Inn to discuss such burning issues (pun intended) as the “circular environment”, an approach which demands ever greater levels of recycling, and which seeks to avoid incinerating waste because it is wasteful and polluting.
The apparent contradiction in Sutton’s incineration policy with the greener outlook of many of those at the sustainability summit was clearly confusing for the council’s own press office. This morning, in a vain effort to drum up some enthusiasm for the European Commission-funded event, they tweeted a leaflet which laid out the serious environmental dangers of incineration. Whoops. It is believed that an office junior in charge of social media was taken outside and given a firm talking to.
The reproach may not have managed to have reconcile an incinerating local authority staging a sustainability summit, though. The council’s Twitter account later oozed approval when a delegate from Portugal spoke about the benefits of establishing a local climate change fund, apparently oblivious to the fact that the Beddington incinerator alone will spew out 1million tons of damaging greenhouse emissions every three years once it is operational.
And not everyone was welcome to Sutton’s publicly funded Euro junket.
Although the council distributed the day’s agenda to LibDem councillors and staff in August, it was only within the past fortnight that Sutton issued a press release announcing the staging of such a “prestigious” event.
That was the first that Conservative opposition councillors knew about the summit. For many, it was too late to arrange to spend the day talking about the sort of sustainable environmental policies which Sutton and their colleagues in the South London Waste Partnership – including Croydon Council – have spent the past six years trying to ignore.
One elected councillor, Nick Mattey was refused entry to the summit this morning. Mattey, who represents Beddington North, was kicked out of the LibDems for daring to question the incinerator policies, and is now an independent.
“They tried to tell me the event was ‘by invitation only’. But last week they were inviting people to apply to attend. Today, they’ve stuffed the hall with council employees, none of whom are going to ask any awkward questions,” Mattey said.
“It’s just another stitch up because they are clearly very embarrassed about the entirely unsustainable £1 billion Viridor incinerator contract. They don’t want the Beddington incinerator and links to the £275,000 ‘gift’ from Viridor’s charity to be mentioned while their European visitors are in town.
“It’s hypocrisy of the worst kind: residents in Beddington and across south London are going to have the air that they breathe polluted for at least 25 years, with potentially terrible health damage. And here today, council leader Ruth Dombey and the council CEO Niall Bolger are spending more public money discussing a ‘sustainable environment’.”
Sutton was chosen to stage the summit by the European Union because it is being considered from among six towns in Britain to be known as an “energy city”. Yeah – another meaningless bit of PR branding that achieves little for residents, but manages to keep a few bureaucrats, whether in south London or Brussels, off the dole queue.
The trouble with Sutton being an “energy city” is that the only sources of energy generation within the south London borough are the eight “energy from waste” plants – that is, incinerators – which already line Beddington Lane, close to the Croydon borough boundary, and which are soon to be joined by the Big Daddy of Sutton incinerators, to be operated by Viridor for the SLWP.
The Viridor incinerator will generate a great deal of energy, in the form of heat, but at such a high price that the company and Sutton Council have struggled to find any buyer mug enough to pay for it. And that’s without considering the environmental costs incurred through incineration. It seems most unlikely that that little snippet of information will have been shared by Sutton’s Dombey and chums with their fellow Euro junketeers.
Salter case sentencing postponed – again
Meanwhile, in a court room across south London, one of Ruth Dombey’s erstwhile LibDem council colleagues, Alan Salter, was due to face sentencing following his guilty plea to taking funds from an old people’s charity.
The theft from the council-funded charity was something which the council leader has claimed she knew nothing about, even though its was her own mother, Brenda Dombey, who was appointed by another charity group to clear up the mess created by Salter.
Salter’s sentencing was postponed, for a second time, and he will reappear in court next month when he will also face two further charges, related to his clients’ tax refunds, and which on this occasion he will be defending the allegations.
Ruth Dombey may well have been discussing sustainability at the Euro summit today, but there are mounting calls for her to face public questioning over her own increasingly unsustainable position as council leader.
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