By Chris Sloley
Stoke-on-Trent city council could be forced to pay its energy-from-waste contractor hundreds of thousands of pounds after failing to deliver the minimum contracted tonnage for the facility in 2009/10.Wolverhampton-based Hanford Waste Services, which operates the 200,000 tonnes-a-year plant in Stoke under a 25-year agreement, is seeking £650,000 from the local authority in back payments and is now locked in legal discussions with the city council and Staffordshire county council over the issue.
Due to the legal nature of the complaint, both parties remain tight-lipped over the particulars of the dispute. However, the legal challenge, if successful, has important implications for long-term waste incineration contracts dependent on a set level of tonnage.
The issue was acknowledged in minutes from a transformation and services overview scrutiny committee meeting on September 23, which state that Stoke is currently engaged in legal and contractual discussions with Hanford and Staffordshire over the claim for back payments.
The minutes state: “Additional ongoing costs in respect of backdated claims from the Waste to Energy Plant made late in 2009/10 (£60,000) were also an unexpected pressure. A claim was received in June in respect of the city council failing to achieve minimum tonnage levels in 2009/10 for £645,000.”
The minutes indicate that the actual cost of the claim is likely to be around £329,000, once a rebate of £316,000 is taking into account.
Stoke was unable to confirm whether the failure to achieve the minimum tonnage could be attributed directly to the recession or to the impact of its ‘enhanced' kerbside recycling service, which saw it move from commingled to source separated collections in September 2008 and achieve a 26.77% recycling rate in 2008/09.
A spokesman for the council told letsrecycle.com: “We can't say anything much because it is an ongoing legal issue. What has been reported is what has been gleamed from the reports and there isn't a great deal more detail.”
Hanford operates the 200,000 tonnes-a-year capacity energy-from-waste facility at Sideway in Stoke-on-Trent under a 25-year agreement signed with Stoke and Staffordshire county council in 1995.
A spokesman for Hanford told letsrecycle.com: “Not really anything to say. I think there is a comment in the press from an unnamed source but for reasons of confidentiality and good relations with the council we will not be saying anything.”