Duncan Smith: ‘They’re burning public money’

Row over energy chief’s pay as former Tory leader opposes controversial incinerator plans

Friday, 22nd April — By Charlotte Chambers

Iain Duncan Smith

Iain Duncan Smith

FORMER Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith has accused the North London Waste Authority (NLWA) of being “out of control” after he claimed that one of its executive’s salaries doubled a year.

The Tory has been a vocal critic of the authority over its controversial plans for a new waste-burning incinerator in Edmonton – a new plant where rubbish from Islington households will be sent to.

The most recently published figures for the accounts of LondonEnergy Ltd (LEL), a subsidiary of the NLWA, show that during the tax year of 2019-20, its chief executive’s pay reached £600,000.

The authority, however, are disputing the content of Mr Duncan Smith’s parliamentary comments.

LEL is the private arm of the publicly funded NLWA, and is responsible for the day-to-day running of the incinerator in Edmonton.

Environmental campaigners protested in the streets on several occasions last year as Islington’s representatives on the authority joined those from other boroughs voting in favour of constructing the new plant.

In December, it awarded the rebuilding project to a Spanish firm, Acciona.

Plans for a new waste plant in Edmonton – where rubbish from Islington households will be sent – have been given the go-ahead, despite protests

Speaking in the House of Commons earlier this month, Mr Duncan Smith said: “Given the latest information that the chief executive of the North London Waste Authority has received a salary increase from £300,000 to more than £600,000, it is clear that the organisation is out of control.”

He also claimed that across the political spectrum at parliament, “not a single member… actually wants the incinerator, and we do not need it and the fumes it will emit”.

He added: “People are burning public money, literally, on projects that are not wanted by the public and will pollute the atmosphere.

“Given the COP26 issues, why is that still happening, and may we have a debate about it now?”

His comments about the salaries came as he claimed the costs of the incinerator were ballooning.

The new plant, when completed, will be able to burn 700,000 tonnes of waste per year.

While the Enfield MP is calling for the government to put the brakes on the project by calling it in for a review on the grounds of cost, spades have already gone into the ground at the waste plant.

At more than 50 years old it is the oldest in the UK and is due to come to the end of its life in 2025.

A spokesperson for the NLWA refused to be drawn on the subject of individual salaries of directors at LEL by claiming it would be a breach of their personal rights under the Data Protection Act.

But they said the doubling in salary for the year 2019-20 was an “anomaly” due to one director leaving and another joining.

“Sir Iain Duncan Smith was entirely incorrect when he implied that remuneration had doubled,” the spokesperson said. “The figures he quoted were for LondonEnergy Ltd (LEL), the company which is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the current energy-from-waste plant in Edmonton and are an anomaly for the financial year 2019-20 due to one managing director leaving the company and a new person taking up the role.”

They said LEL’s accounts for the following tax year, 2020-2021, were being “audited” and would be published in September, but that its “highest paid director” last year earned “a total remuneration of about £192,000”.

The spokesperson added: “This remuneration is equivalent to other positions with similar responsibilities, which involve managing a highly complex 24/7 operation as well an energy-from-waste plant.”

Last week the NLWA’s chief executive, Martin Capstick, published a letter on its website responding to some of Mr Duncan Smith’s concerns.

Denying that costs had “spiralled”, he said the current projected cost of £1.2billion was set in 2019 and “remains within this budget”.

He said: “The project is being taken forward after an extensive options study and consideration of alternatives.

“The value for money is kept under review.

“If the project were cancelled, the alternative would involve transporting hundreds of thousands of tonnes of waste and paying whatever was needed to secure capacity (if available) at facilities – almost certain to have lower environmental standards – elsewhere in the south east or further field.”

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