The grant would have funded Norfolk County Council’s Willows waste treatment plant in Saddlebow, near King’s Lynn. The 25-year contract was signed with Cory Wheelbrator in 2012.

A Norfolk County Council spokesman told LAWR that Defra funding would have delivered disposal cost savings of more than £7m. He said the savings would have helped ease pressure on the council’s tight budgets – which currently has a shortfall of £189m. However, even without the grant the EfW plant would deliver cost savings of around £2m a year.

A council spokesman added: “The council has been left in an extraordinarily difficult position. We, like everyone else, are in a difficult position anyway. You add on these problems and this will have an impact on council services that people value.”

The announcement comes just days before the council is due to debate the future of the contract on October 28. Norfolk County Council’s cabinet will decide whether or not to accept the new project plan on October 29.

The proposed Willows EfW plant has become a high profile political issue for the council. It was approved by a Conservative administration at County Hall, but after the Tories lost control of the authority in May, the majority of councillors now oppose the scheme.

A revised project plan withdrawal would trigger compensation costs of around £28.9m, payable to Cory Wheelbrator according to the council.

Norfolk County Council is the latest council to have its waste project funding withdrawn by Defra. Earlier this year, Merseyside Recycling & Waste Authority, North Yorkshire County Council and City of York Council all had their grants retracted.

To add to the council’s problems, the government called in its planning applications and a decision is due on this early next year.

Norfolk County Council leader George Nobbs expressed disappointment at the news. He said: “Make no mistake, which ever way you choose to look at it, this is more bad news from this government for Norfolk taxpayers.”

Liz Gyekye

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