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Bridgend: Scrutiny committee votes not to refer Hybont decision back to Cabinet

Bridgend County Borough Council's Civic Offices on Angel Street (Pic: Bridgend County Borough Council)

MEMBERS of the Scrutiny and Overview Committee at Bridgend County Borough Council have voted in favour of not asking Cabinet to reconsider its decision to withdraw financial support from the Hybont green energy project.

The committee voted 8-3 in favour of not referring the decision back to Cabinet after it was made last month in the face of a predicted multi-million pound deficit and significant new and emerging budget pressures for 2024-25.

The Cabinet’s decision was called in by the Scrutiny committee after members queried if there had been assumptions, omissions and contradictions around the original report which had not been adequately questioned. They also asked if alternative options had been considered, and whether there had been sufficient details on finance and land use.

The Scrutiny committee further queried whether there were opportunities for money to be recovered, if alternative sources of funding might be available, and if the decision was contradictory to the authority’s own Net Zero Carbon Strategy.

Cabinet members Councillor John Spanswick and Councillor Hywel Jenkins were invited to attend the Scrutiny meeting and answer questions from its members alongside senior council managers Carys Lord and Janine Nightingale.

Speaking after the meeting, Councillor John Spanswick, Cabinet Member for Climate Change and the Environment, said: “While the decision for the council to withdraw from the Hybont project was taken purely on financial grounds, we are aware that talks remain ongoing and that the project could still be taken forward by other partners, such as Welsh Government and Cardiff Capital Region,
without the council’s involvement.

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“While all necessary due diligence work has been carried out, the council cannot ignore how its financial situation has significantly changed.

“With a multi-million pound deficit to contend with, the council has had to review how we spend money in future, and has concluded that as far as this project is concerned, we cannot afford to commit to spending around £6.5m when, like other councils, we are also predicting a multi-million pound deficit in the current financial year and significant new budget pressures for 2024-25.”

Councillor Hywel Williams, Cabinet Member for Resources, said: “Withdrawing our financial support from the Hybont project does not affect our commitment towards the Net Zero Carbon Strategy. Recent figures have confirmed that we have successfully reduced our annual carbon output by 38 per cent compared to last year’s figure, which is more than 25 million kilogrammes, and these efforts
are going to continue.”

“The need to develop cheaper, cleaner energy sources remains important, and while the £149,500 that has been invested in the Hybont project to date has not gone to waste, our financial planning tells us that we will be hard-pressed to afford to invest further large sums in future. Faced with such difficult choices, the council will always do the right thing, and will put local residents first.”

You can read the agenda or watch a recording of the Scrutiny meeting at www.bridgend.gov.uk