Published: February 14, 2012
Hinkley Point cash row halts district council's tax-setting meeting

It may have been Valentines Day, but there was no love on show between Sedgemoor District Council and power firm EDF on Tuesday (February 14th) when a dispute broke out between the two over the costs of Hinkley Point's planned expansion.

The district council adjourned its annual meeting to set council tax rates for the coming year amid "major concerns" about its ability to continue to carry out vital work in scrutinising EDF’s application to the Infrastructure Planning Commission for a £10bn new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point.

The council says the scrutiny is fundamental to make sure that the interests of the residents who will bear the impacts of the development are fairly and properly represented.

"Sedgemoor District Council is adamant that local council taxpayers’ money should not be used to carry out this work, as the project is of national benefit and importance and is being built by a commercial, profit-making company," a council spokeswoman told Burnham-On-Sea.com.

"It is estimated that very large sums of money will be needed to carry out this work and SDC are not willing to set their council tax without this amount being agreed upon. EDF have previously funded this work but have not confirmed so far the amount for the next stage despite ongoing negotiations with the council over the matter."

The council has postponed its tax setting meeting until Friday, 24th February at 2.30pm in the hope that a deal can be successfully negotiated.

Leader of Council, Councillor Duncan McGinty, told Burnham-On-Sea.com: "It is entirely improper that we use extremely scarce public money to fund the development process relating to a privately owned commercial asset of a company which is expected to reveal profits of £3.8bn later this week."

He added: "The IPC will be expecting to see properly researched evidence from the councils as to information contained in EDF’s application and we are not prepared to pay for this from local tax."

"This is a core business for EDF, who will be spending many millions on their application. They will also be buying in the best legal and technical advice as they need. We need to be able to properly challenge their claims and this does not come cheap given the resources they have put behind their own professional team."

The £2million contribution required by the council covers the costs that will be incurred by both Sedgemoor and West Somerset Councils as well as some of those incurred by the county.

The funds are needed for researching, producing evidence and presenting arguments for the various issues that local communities have said are important to them such as housing, transport, community safety, leisure and the environment.

EDF Energy's Gordon Bell defended the power firm's actions, responding: "Over the past two and a half years, EDF Energy has voluntarily provided more than £13 million to three local councils - Somerset County Council, West Somerset Council and Sedgemoor District Council - to allow them and their consultants to scrutinise the proposals for Hinkley Point C. Of this total, £9.8 million has been received by Sedgemoor District Council."

"This has ensured that Council budgets have not been affected by the Hinkley Point C project. Further, we are voluntarily committing to continue to fund the reasonable costs incurred by the local authorities during the IPC process. We had further discussions today with Sedgemoor District Council to reiterate our commitment."

"As a result, the councils will have funding from us to carry out all reasonable work as part of this process, without need to impact council budgets. Of course we also have a duty to our customers to keep their bills to a minimum, and so cannot fund work beyond what is reasonably required of the councils in the IPC process."

"Our project will bring substantial economic benefit to the area, including £100 m per year at peak construction and £40 million per year during operation."

 


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