The war began on Thursday 24th Feb, 2022. It has been 41 days since Russian forces swept across the border into the Ukraine, causing millions to flee their homes and their country. On the same day, Folkestone and Hythe District Council paid Gazprom, the Russian gas supplier. This was the second occasions.
On the 24th Feb 2022, Folkestone & Hythe District Council paid Gazprom Marketing & Trading Retail Ltd, the sum of £968.36. A previous payment of £990.15 to the same company happened on 07.12.21, according to the Council’s payment to suppliers data. It is not known yet if the Council have paid Gazprom in March as the data has not yet been published.
We doubt if the Cabinet Member for the Environment, Cllr Lesley Whybrow (Green) (pictured) is even aware we’ve paid Gazprom for gas for use across the Council estate.
But it is not just Cllr Whybrow who probably isn’t aware. Probably most Cllrs are blissfully unaware. We hope now that they have no reason to been unaware, blissfully or otherwise, they might start creating solutions to get this issued fix as soon as damn possible. Our Council MUST NOT continue to financially assist any Russian or Belorussian controlled company, a day longer than need be.
A procurement policy note published by the Cabinet Office, on the 29.3.22 said that public bodies can cut ties with companies from Russia and Belarus if they can find an affordable supplier without service disruptions.
However, the government has yet to respond to calls by councils to amend section 17 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988, which restricts local authorities, such as ours, from taking procurement decisions based on non-commercial factors, eg the war and taking a stand with the Ukraine.
The guidance also states:
“contracts may be terminated for legitimate commercial reasons, e.g. the supplier is unable to deliver or has become unreliable as a result of sanctions, inability to travel or other disruptions… Local authorities should take legal advice before terminating on these grounds.”
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has made it known they are considering amending Section 17 through secondary legislation to address the issue.
However, it is unlikely the government will table any amendments to the act before next month’s Easter break, meaning the Council must honour any contract obligations, as councils are dependent on legislative changes.
Exiting the gas contract with Gazprom early, would more likely than not, incur exit penalties, or a large spike in provider costs. It would also be incompatible with council’s best value duties, under Section 3 of the Local Government Act 1999.
So how long have the Council had either a direct contract with Gazprom Marketing & Trading Retail Ltd, or bought gas from a third party, who had a contract with the company, such as KCC.
The Council have burnt Russian gas and created emissions which are detrimental to our environment in our district. It is not just the war that must end, but the pollution of our environment by Russian gas.
We hope Cllr Lesley Whybrow (Green), Cabinet Member for the Environment, and all other Cllrs of Folkestone & Hythe District Council will seek an absolute commitment and assurance from the Chief Executive, Dr Susan Priest (pictured), to end the contract and payments to, and burning of Gazprom’s gas, in all Council buildings as soon as damn possible – please.
The Shepway Vox Team
Being Voxatious is NOT a Crime