Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act (FoI) reveal that North Yorkshire County Council has spent £5.6m on consultancy and legal fees for its planned Allerton Park incinerator.
The council and contractor AmeyCespa has faced heavy opposition to the £900m project. This week County Coun Paul Richardson, chairman of the Harrogate Area Committee, who submitted the FOI, said he was shocked by the scale of spending.
“You have to have consultancy fees, but I was thinking it would be about £1m,” he said. “It seems an extortionate amount. It might not be, but it seems a hell of a lot of money.
He added: “The figures were worked out in 2009... the financial world has moved on, and Spain - where AmeyCespa’s parent company is based - is in trouble.”
The county council pays 75 per cent of consultancy fees, with City of York Council paying the rest. Between 2005 and 2010, the costs of financial, legal and technical advice were £4.13m, with North Yorkshire paying over £3.09m. Since then, £2.04m has been incurred, with the county council paying £1.53m.
Coun Chris Metcalfe, the executive member dealing with waste disposal, defended the amount spent on what he called “additional advice”. He said: “Putting together such a contract is extremely complex and so there isn’t a benchmark. You have to say: ‘Was it value for money on the basis of the advice that we required and actually got?’
“I would say: ‘Yes it is’. As far as we are concerned, we bought in the experts and the additional capacity that we didn’t have in-house. We feel we got good value.”
He added: “Whilst it’s in a less positive position than it was in the early days, purely because of the downturn, overall it still provides excellent value for money for the authority, compared to dumping waste in a hole in the ground.”