Blue Flower

Just because Councillors will stare at you stony faced when they're confronted by public concern and officials will present untruths through hissing teeth as simple facts or refuse to attend any public meetings doesn't mean they're hiding something ...

There’s an old adage to understanding why politicians shuffle uncomfortably when defending ridiculous decisions. It’s called "follow the money".

Charity isn’t altruistic and nothing from a corporation comes without strings. Public life is full of crooked and corrupt politicians. Say one thing, do another types. Ones that will say whatever they think you want to hear. The disingenuous, the fabricators, dissemblers and outright liars. The list of why no one trusts anything most politicians say is pretty much a universally held truism.

It’s easy to figure out Viridor.

  1. It’s a corporation who want to get unpopular plans passed by local politicians against the wishes of everyone else.
  2. It’s wholly reliant on profiting off public contracts paid from the public purse that are granted by the same local politicians.

This doesn't just create a glaring conflict of interest or suggest a wholesale level of collusion. They are wholly in bed with each other. The public play absolutely no part except that the tax-payer is now paying BOTH parties to work for Viridor's shareholders and against the public interest.

Viridor's business model requires sliding past the objections of low-level officials with broad and unspecific ideas about waste collection, only to produce final contracts to the decision makers which bear little resemblance to the original proposals. One would be forgiven for being unaware that collecting your waste every week is the least lucrative part of their business - For Viridor, the ultimate goal is getting a do-whatever-we-like contract locked into for the longest time for the highest profits, preferably without oversight, safeguards or strings attached.

The fact is that no matter how they spin it, Viridor is not a great environmental statesman. It’s distributing wealth through their charity arm, with of course access to tax-payer's money. Viridor’s PR stuntmanship isn't just about gaming the political system, they manipulate the social system to their advantage. Viridor’s Environmental Credit site is full of  professionally designed glossy pdfs packed to the gunnels with positive spin. Their self-portrayal is in no way restricted to being champions of the environment, they’re also great communitarians. Doling out money to anyone funnelled to their doorstep to beg for a spiritual cash back for a leaky church roof or playground floodlights for toddlers or Football Club improvements.

But all this magnificent homage to community building flies in the face of reality. The utter destruction they’ve rained down on the residents and communities living around the Dimmer site for the last 25 years isn’t mentioned and no one is bought off or compensated. We're just the miserable lamb-like villagers suffering the noise pollution, loss of amenity and lowered quality of life.

So, Viridor closes all the doors for a secret meeting to tell the officials that if they let them collect, then sort the County's waste at Dimmer, then incinerate the waste in Avonmouth all the County's needs would be fullfilled, their duties will have been discarged and the tax-payer will be paying for it all.

And, yet no councillors ask the fundamental questions:

  1. When you're already operating a landfill site near Bridgewater on the M5 and you're waiting for planning permissions, why would you need to force another that has no local support in the wrong place along miles of B-road dotted with villages?
  2. How can the thousands of HGVs you’ll need to transport the waste to a new sorting station miles from the collection points in the opposite direction to the incinerator be economically viable and why have the Council agreed to the public footing the bill?
  3. You make a whole big deal about recycling, but incineration reduces recycling rates and the bottom ash which is supposed to be used by the construction industry ends up in landfill as has happened in Cardiff?
  4. For all your claims about being the friends of the environment, how can throwing up tons of CO2 and particulates up into the atmosphere be in the National interest or be environmentally sound?
  5. After the public condemnation and publicised failures of Viridor’s Croydon and Cardiff operations, why are the Somerset County Council listening to Viridor and going down the same route?
  6. Isn't it true that Viridor's business model to build a new incinerator is only financially feasable after procuring the publically financed County Council's contracts?

Viridor've been operating their PR charity arm for the last 16 years across the UK and have a lot of good will slushing around. But don't let this fool you, Viridor operate with one simple economic certainty: Give them crumbs today, and we'll rake in millions tomorrow.

Now, some would say that it’s a coincidence that the South West seems to rake in the lion’s share or Viridor's philanthropy. Others would say that leaping from around a half a million giveaway in 2012/2013 to around £1million bonanza by 2015/2016 is a great opportunity for the local communities. However, it looks entirely fishy when you’re trying to get a new incinerator built and hold onto a landfill site that Viridor themselves estimated they'd have to vacate in 2010.

No one objects to our Councils working with private contractors to get a job done, but there's a huge difference between working WITH private companies in partnership and working FOR them as yes men.

Somerset County Council & Viridor Waste Management are in charge of the Henhouse.

We're suposed to have moved past backroom deals, corrupt self-interest and dictatorial powerbrokers, but it seems that our public servants have awarded themselves the right to do anything they want within the frameworks their predecessors created.

When things are decided without proper public consultation or railroaded through without due consideration of the facts it would seem that our public servants answer to no one but each other.

You'd be lucky to find out if some goon in Taunton had managed to give themselves planning permission to put a new airport runway in your back yard before workmen were bulldozing your house down.

Policies are supposed to follow a pre-determined path:

  • Verify, define and detail the problem
  • Establish evaluation criteria
  • Identify and evaluate alternatives
  • Choose the best of the alternative policies
  • Implement and monitor the recommended policies

Some officials on the other side of Somerset made a decision recently to condemn the Six Pilgrims area to perpetual blight. Wilful decimation of our communities and destroying our quality of life without facing a single moment of reality. And this, when there was a perfectly viable and economically superior alternative waste station at Bridgewater. It's already up and running and in absolutely the right geographical location. Easy for sorting Yeovil, Glastonbury and Street's waste and then trucking it straight up the M5 to the Avonmouth incinerator for burning!

  • The idea is that every policy is examined thoroughly.
  • Determine the desirability of all the alternative policies from the viewpoint of society, taking into consideration productivity, value to the public purse etc
  • Contracted safeguards put in place to avoid any subsequent shenannigans by any party.

None of this happens when a private business creates a new policy and Somerset County Council jumped into bed without checking for condoms and no thought to the morning after.

  • Bad decisions like these can be arrived at because vested interest groups carry more weight than all of the readily available empirical evidence.
  • There are situations when the legitimate warnings from the public and Parish Councils play second fiddle to tainted and fabricated information from experts.
  • When things are decided behind closed doors because some groups are alowed to police themselves and answer to no one. Sounds like the Banking fiasco.

There was a time when I would have said "If you don't know what's going on, it's because you weren't paying attention", but it's not true. By the time we read about something in a newspaper, the deal was done so long ago that the ink is fading on the parchment.

No one can be held accountable even when the decision is clearly unjustified and the consequences multi-generational unless you speak up NOW!

 

In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act —George Orwell

The crime against our neighbourhood is the danger created by millions of Diesel belching HGVs careering up and down our B-roads through our villages. Viridor don’t want to face that reality because they can’t do anything about it because their haulliers. Viridor’s shareholders receive all their dividends because we pay them to move one lot of pollution to another place to pollute that - In other words, from your doorstep to a landfill site.

What’s been difficult for Viridor is to get from the less lucrative burying of waste to their next stage: excessive profits based on the public purse.

  • They must make people forget that their only interest is making mountains of money by turning recycled waste into air pollution and mountains of ash.
  • Then get them to ignore the thousands of extra HGVs there’ll be using to transport the incinerator fuel to the incinerator and the bottom ash back to a landfill site.
  • Then have our public servants pretend that Viridor's plot is not to pollute the environment for massive profits, but that their shareholders have everyone's best interests at heart.

There really are people in positions of power that have done everything to avoid consulting with the public. It's not that anyone's been silenced, but it's very difficult to believe that anyone has been considered, which is an entirely different matter. They've refused to accept independent information. The highways agency or the environmental agency aren't independent and the experts are the residents on the ground. They've even forgotten that it's thier democratic duty to deal with Viridor as a private company, not their bed-mate or partner in grime.

It's their job to scrutinise the pillow talk. An incinerator isn’t an energy reclamation centre, it’s a health hazard and a discredited and unnecessary method of dealing with biodegradable waste. No matter what weasel words and promises they use to influence Council opinions, Viridor's current business model results in creating more environmental pollution. Viridor's PR campaign screams about recycling more. The only reason they want more recylable waste because if it's burned in an incinerator, it turns into money, not because they're in any way concerned with being Green.

Viridor’s charity arm, Viridor Environmental Credits exists to lay the groundwork for misdirection and obfuscation.

Viridor Credits distribute vast sums of money to the areas around their landfill sites - This kind of corruption used to be known as a slush fund to buy off the public. Compliant decision-makers are targeted to sway their votes on Company business. This would be in the form of funnelling grants and charity money towards pet projects or work in the Councillors own wards or towards their families or business interests. In our case, we can't tell what's happened, but the result is that Somerset Waste Board will agree to just about anything Viridor wants so long as no one realises the extent of it.

There are important questions about the financial side of the contracts and the planning permissions, but there are fundamental questions about a system that is so easilly open to abuse.

  • What do they hope to gain from this appearance of generosity?
  • Landfill Credits Fund was created to benefit people directly affected by landfill sites. It's public money yet Viridor use a skewed points system to assure it gets out to people in the surrounding area who suffer nothing. If it creates positive stories, it's free PR from the public purse.

These questions are pertinent, but they're of little importance when you realise that Viridor don’t care about the community. It’s an illusion - The real game and the scam is being played elsewhere.

  • It’s a fact that a Viridor landfill operation is the least lucrative part of their business.
  • The most money will be made by creating electricity by burning waste in private incinerators they haven’t built yet.
  • They can’t raise the funds to build the incinerator without the revenue stream from Council contracts to collect and sort the waste.

For Viridor the scam is about getting the Officials to agree to their contracts, then everything else falls into place and the heavens rain down gold, not poisoned ash.

Viridor governement pets

The Taunton crew are the lynchpin for Viridor and so that's where all their firepower is aimed. Viridor only ever need 51% and there's enough confused just by the number of hats councillors wear to get this done. There's still enough of the spineless enduring in silence while the Chair runs away from independent thought or outside scrutiny. Or my favourite type, those who think the public are an inconvenience because the people they best answer to are themselves.
These people might be an embarrassment to public service, but the weakest link is actually Viridor’s business model.
The chain of events that Viridor relies on is weakened by the financial system rather than the political: If they don’t have the council contracts, they don’t get to build their incinerator.

No one understands why Dimmer has been roped into this incinerator gaff by Steve Read and Derek Yeomans. The fact is that it shouldn't be on the same table as the incinerator because it's not necessary for the Viridor scam to work. It's not part of any cost-cutting exercise because it's more expensive to truck waste from anywhere in East Somerset to Dimmer then back to Avonmouth than it is via Walpole. I don't expect anyone will find out why Viridor or Somerset Waste Board is so desperate to hold onto Dimmer until it's way too late to object. So we object now.

  • When it comes to the Dimmer tip there’s no legitimate argument for Viridor to hold onto it - When any tip is full, it closes. That's always been understood by everyone, including Viridor.
  • There’s no hurry to deal with Dimmer. There’s no reason to rush anything through before the entire opeation can be assessed independently.
  • No Council or Waste Board has any mandate or financially viable justification to repurpose Dimmer for another generation of people to suffer. There is a viable alternative landfill already operating in the right location near Bridgewater. It's far easier and far more appropriate to send ALL waste from Street, Yeovil and Glastonbury directly to Walpole than have thousands of trucks travelling down B-roads away from the incinerator, only to travel right back again through Clanville & Prestleigh to Avonmouth!

By all accounts, Steve Read at Somerset Waste Board makes a lot of weird statements, rarely answers any questions and is aversed to being in situations where people can question him.

  • He says that he'll do everything he can to divert trash away from Dimmer to go directly to Walpole.
  • He understands that Walpole is already operating as a landfill site and is in the process of obtaining planning to build a transfer station.
  • He knows Walpole is closer to the incinerator, has excellent access to Somerset's major routes, towns and the M5.

However, he throws his entire support behind Viridor building a waste transfer station at Dimmer. Giving the excuse that SWB is under unprecidented pressure to cut costs - Having Viridor stay on at Dimmer is necessary because it's cheaper to extend an existing building (in the wrong place) than start from scratch!

To charcterise his position clearly:

  • He justifies his support for building an unnecessary Transfer Station at Dimmer because it's the cheapest option.
  • He wants to give Viridor a 30 year contract to operate and build a Transfer Station as a solution to a problem that he knows will be solved by Walpole.
  • His stated intent to alleviate the problems around Dimmer is to do precisecly the opposite by planning for all of East Somerset to bring their waste to Dimmer for sorting.

Incineration is not in the public's interest and the only way to guarantee that ALL the waste needed at the Avonmouth incinerator goes to Walpole is to close the Dimmer site.