The Government’s long running Waste Infrastructure Delivery Programme (WIDP) is moving to a new phase after helping to deliver the ‘vast majority’ of infrastructure under the progamme.
Established by Defra in 2006, WIDP was intended to accelerate the delivery of residual waste treatment infrastructure such as energy-from-waste plants. This was imperative at the time to meet strict landfill diversion targets and to offer support to councils.
Its focus was contracts delivered under the Public Finance Initiative (PFI), a way of financing public sector projects through the private sector, which would help cover up-front costs.
However, with its previous role largely completed, the programme is now turning its attention to delivering the greatest cost savings it can under the existing contracts.
This comes after some past criticism that the PFI model was not necessarily delivering best value for the taxpayer and in the light of council and central government budgets being squeezed and a general desire to reduce spending on the waste PFI projects.
The Department recently advertised for a new employee in its commercial policy division to work within the WIDP programme team to help drive savings including through scrutiny of contracts to deliver better value for money.
In the communication, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), said: “…we are moving the programme to an operational phase whereby we support the local authorities through their relationship with their private sector contractors to deliver best value for money for the public purse as well as help to identify operational savings which may help to reduce the financial contribution Defra makes to the projects.”
WIDP features about 24 local authority-led waste management projects (largely energy from waste schemes) which collectively receive over £100 million in grant funding from Defra per year. The Department is making a total long term investment of £2.9 billion into these projects.
WIDP brings together expertise from Defra, Infrastructure UK and Local Partnerships – a joint Treasury/Local Government Association-owned company set up to support local authorities – which provides expert waste technology, financing and contractual advice to the Programme.
In its annual review for 2018/19, Local Partnerships said that it had supported Defra in the delivery of WIDP during the year, helping 26 authorities manage operational waste PFI contracts. Projects include the Hampshire and Veolia Project Integra energy from waste plants, the Cornwall’s and Suez UK energy recovery plant.
It added: “We helped Defra support 40 waste authorities via its network groups, contract management reviews and contract management training. We provided support across a range of projects including re-procurement of facilities, variation business cases, and commercial negotiations with contractors.
“We also supported Defra to formulate and assess the impact of policies that have featured prominently in the government’s ‘Resources and waste strategy’.”
Earlier this year, WIDP published a list of residual waste treatment capacity/contracts in England which it tracks for the purpose of assessing treatment capacity.