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.