Defra gave “good support” to three difficult PFI deals, NAO finds


The National Audit Office (NAO) has published a report on oversight of three local authority PFI waste contracts by Defra.

It finds that Defra gave “good support and guidance” to Surrey County Council, Norfolk County Council and a joint bid from Herefordshire Council and Worcestershire County Council.


All three projects experienced significant delays due to differing problems such as difficulties obtaining planning permission, complex commercial considerations, opposition for local groups and uncertainty over technology.

According to the NAO, there was a lack of clarity over facts and figures relating to these three projects and the roles and responsibilities of the parties involved.

However, it noted that the nature of Defra’s funding agreements with Surrey and Herefordshire and Worcestershire made it difficult for it to withdraw or amend its financial support to these contracts, even when significant infrastructure had not been delivered as planned.

Norfolk has now decided to pull out of its PFI deal with Cory Wheelabrator to build an energy from waste facility.

The NAO has not sought in the report to conclude on the value for money of the three contracts as these are matters for the local authorities’ own auditors. It also does not examine the value for money of the overall Waste Infrastructure Delivery Programme managed by Defra.

But it does examine those issues over which Defra has direct influence or involvement.