Council-owned waste services profits should be invested in Blaenau Gwent roads, suggests councillor
PROFIT made by council-owned Silent Valley Waste Services Ltd should be invested on Blaenau Gwent roads, a councillor has suggested.
At a meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council on Thursday, July 20, councillors were given an update on the process of winding up Silent Valley and merging it into the council.
Independent group deputy leader, Cllr Wayne Hodgins said: “If you look at the appendices, there is £3 million there in hard cash, and £1.6 million is ring fenced for after care.
“Then there is £1.4 million left that is a windfall or profit coming into the Environment portfolio.”
He also pointed out that the documents showed that Silent Valley had made a profit of £100,000 during the last year.
Cllr Hodgins said: “Are we in a position that some of that money could be diverted into the highway network? It’s there, it’s a windfall – or could we set up a working party to explore it?
“We always say how the Environment department is struggling and their budgeting is very difficult.”
Deputy council leader and environment portfolio holder Cllr Helen Cunningham said: “I would probably take a different view; we are seeing a transfer of assets but also liabilities.
“The reasons why we have these earmarked reserves is to meet our legal commitments.
“We have entered a deed with NRW (Natural Resources Wales) in order to assure them we would be able to meet them (legal commitments).
“The windfall we have had is in terms of the transfer of skills and knowledge from the members of staff from Silent Valley.”
Cllr Cunningham added that “future commercial opportunities” the team is exploring could also be a “potential windfall.”
Resources chief officer, Rhian Hayden said: “I am recommending that the monies that will be transferred over from Silent Valley to Blaenau Gwent be ring fenced into a reserve to support the ongoing maintenance of the site.”
If this is not the case, the environment department would have to pay for the maintenance from their budget explained Ms Hayden.
Ms Hayden said: “I would not be recommend using any of these funds for any other activity other than supporting the Silent Valley site.”
Cllr Hodgins still believed that there still should be discussion on this issue as it would be beneficial to be able to access the money and “dip in and dip out” of it.
Ms Hayden stressed in the long term the funding needed to maintain the site would rise from £1.6 million to more than £8 million.
Ms Hayden said: “We will have to find more, not immediately, but over the years, which is why I suggest making a good start by ring fencing the £1.6 million.”
Independent group leader, Cllr Joanne Wilkins said: “The opportunities for this site are going to be crucial for us in terms of how we do business, how we generate funds, our carbon neutral agenda all kinds of things, it’s exciting and that’s what we need to focus on.”
The report shows that 20 members of staff have been transferred over to the council’s Regeneration and Communities directorate and a further two moving to resources and payroll departments.
In February 2022, the council agreed to take over Silent Valley following a damning report by Audit Wales.
The report published in January 2022 highlighted that the council failed to establish robust and effective arrangements in its relationship with Silent Valley between 2003 and 2017.
The transfer of the environment permit will allow the council to operate the landfill site near Cwm until 2076 and also includes a “financial commitment” with the NRW.
By BBC LDRS
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