A Liberal Democrat councillor who is supposed to represent the ward which will be worst hit by the environmental disaster which is the Viridor incinerator in Beddington has taken up a role on an awards panel that will be handing out nearly £1million in “grants” from the operator.The scandal-hit Sutton LibDems had one councillor forced to resign earlier this year before he was convicted of theft from a charity from the elderly, which a Charity Commission investigation has found was covered up by the political group which controls Sutton Council.
Now, Pathumal Ali, a councillor for the residents of Beddington North ward, has announced her “great pleasure” at being part of Viridor’s “Community Benefit Fund”, which will be (slowly) doling out £975,000 to causes in Sutton, Croydon, Kingston and Merton, the boroughs which form the South London Waste Partnership and which commissioned the incinerator.
“Viridor’s community fund is hush money, simple as that,” according to Nick Mattey, who is also a councillor for Beddington North.
Mattey was kicked out of the LibDems for protesting too much about the damaging environmental impact of the incinerator after he exposed the £275,000 “gift” from a Viridor charity to a church which is regularly used by local MP Tom Brake and his party colleagues for meetings and canvassing.
The Beddington Lane area will have to endure nearly 700 HGV journeys every day once Viridor has its incinerator operating, the lorries trundling backwards and forwards to keep the furnaces fuelled with millions of tons of rubbish, much of which might otherwise have been recycled.
Viridor stands to receive a total of £1 billion in payments from Croydon and the three other boroughs over a 25-year period for operating the incinerator. So the £1million “community” fund – to be distributed over the same period – is small change as part of a cynical PR exercise in a built-up, residential area where air pollution is already bad.
In a press release issued by Viridor and the SLWP earlier this week, they continue to deceive by referring to the incinerator as an “Energy Recovery Facility”, or ERF. Yet Viridor still does not have any outlets for that “recovered” energy, although they maintain the fantasy – which was used as a justification when applying for planning permission – that energy from the incineration plant will “power 30,000 homes”.Viridor and Sutton Council are desperately hoping to secure customers for their environmentally unfriendly and over-priced hot water from the incinerator. A decision from house-builders Barratt’s – who are not immune from the odd bit of corruption allegations and scandal themselves recently – on whether to have their Felnex development at Hackbridge have its heat provided by Viridor is understood to be imminent.
“It is with great pleasure that we are able to launch the Community Benefit Fund associated with the Beddington ERF,” Viridor had Ali say for the benefit of their press release.
Ali was recently promoted on Sutton Council to become the chair of the local authority’s important scrutiny committee – a vacancy which had arisen when one of her LibDem colleagues, Alan Salter, had to resign as a councillor before his arrest on various charges of theft of thousands of pounds from a charity of which he was a trustee. Salter has been found guilty and awaits sentencing, as well as facing further criminal charges.
Meanwhile Ali, who claims to be a “Beddington champion”, said, “The funding panel comprises of representatives from community forums and we will be well placed to advocate the fund and encourage applications of up to £30,000. If anyone is unsure of whether they would be eligible, please do not hesitate to contact me or any member of the panel.”
The total fund will be £975,000 over the 25-year term of the contract – so a hush fund of not even £40,000 per year for putting up with the untold environmental and health damage which the incinerator and its hundreds of lorries – delivering rubbish and later taking away the resultant ash – may inflict on the area.Viridor tells us that its hush fund comprises of an initial sum of £250,000, plus annual contributions of £25,000 and a further top up payment will be made after 10 years.
“Projects that demonstrate support and benefit to the local community will be eligible for funding,” they say, somewhat paternalistically, without saying who will be deciding what “benefits” the local community. The LibDem councillor is the only panel member so far named by Viridor.
Ali’s erstwhile colleague, Mattey, believes that there are obvious conflicts of interest between her role as a councillor and her place as a Viridor
lackey fund distributor.
“Residents have asked me how the self-proclaimed ‘Beddington champion’, Councillor Ali, can combine being the chair of the council’s scrutiny committee while also being Viridor’s chosen person on this hush fund, the community benefit fund.“Councillor Ali is the only Beddington North resident I know who refers to the Viridor incinerator as an ERF. Is Councillor Ali to be paid for this new role? Who are the other members of the panel who will determine who gets a small cash hand-out from Viridor’s incineration profits?
“You cannot be chair of the scrutiny committee and at the same time be so closely allied with Viridor, a company that is in receipt of millions of pounds of Sutton residents money.
“The council has hidden the costs that they pay Viridor to dispose of waste. Having a staunch Viridor supporter as chair of the scrutiny committee will make it impossible for residents to have any degree of transparency.
“Councillor Ali can help Viridor with their public relations, or she can scrutinise processes within Sutton Council. She cannot do both.”
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