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Cornwall Council leader fires back at deputy over resignation he "heard about on the radio"

By WBNews  |  Posted: October 10, 2012

Jim Currie

Jim Currie

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CORNWALL Council leader Alec Robertson said he learnt about his deputy's resignation on the radio this morning (Wednesday).

His fellow Conservative, Councillor Jim Currie, quit the ruling Cabinet by e-mail last night in a message sent to all members at 7.30pm, as first revealed by the West Briton on this website.

But in an extensive response sent out by the council's press office at 5.30pm today (published in full below, with Mr Currie's resignation beneath that), Mr Robertson, who faces a vote of no confidence on Tuesday, claimed he was unaware until this morning and "disappointed to first learn" of it on the radio.

Mr Currie, who also gives up his position as councillor in charge of finance and corporate resources, resigned over his opposition to a plan to hand over some council services to a private company. The leader had said the council would push ahead with the intention to create a new firm in partnership with either BT or Computer Sciences Corporation after the majority of councillors voted against the move in a motion last month, but has now said he will go with the majority in a vote due on the matter on October 23, a week after the no confidence motion is considered.

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In resigning, Mr Currie said he had done as much as he could to stop the so-called joint venture or shared services deal, but Mr Robertson was going to "never let go", despite his "somewhat ambiguous offer to respect full council decisions on the 23rd October".

In response, Mr Robertson echoed his claim it was "not personal" but criticised his former deputy for not discussing his resignation with him first.

Mr Robertson's full message:

Dear Jim

Thank you for your emailed Cabinet resignation which is acknowledged.

I appreciate your confirmation that this matter is not personal and as you know, I have never harboured any ill feeling towards you over this either. I have always respected the fact that the joint venture proposal is a matter of strongly held principle for you and, although you were clearly out of step with the rest of the Cabinet, I like many others, have admired your customary fortitude. I was, therefore, disappointed to first learn of your resignation from Radio Cornwall. We could have spoken of this on numerous occasions in recent days but I am also aware that this would not have been easy, given our close and successful working relationship over the past seven and a half years.

I can assure you that my oft repeated statement that the Cabinet will respect the vote of the Full Council on 23 October, is unequivocal and is shared by all Cabinet Members regardless of our previously expressed support for the Joint Venture. As I have already said, it would be futile to progress a proposal if it is opposed by the majority of the Council because, as has been seen in other partnerships around the country, such relationships have little prospect of success if both parties are not committed. Obviously, this would be a material consideration which the Cabinet would be able to take into account in its legal and constitutional decision making.

I fail to see what is ambiguous about "if a majority of the Members present at the debate vote against the proposal, then it will not go ahead" but I am happy to re-iterate that message here.

We have discussed, at length, your views on the risks and scale of the proposal and the ability of the Council to ensure adequate control and democratic accountability in it. We clearly have varying levels of risk aversion and my experience outside the public sector, in common with the rest of the Cabinet Members, gives us a different perspective on the private business sector.

We also have a different view on the future prospects for local government finance which I, again in common with the rest of the Cabinet, expect to be more challenging than you have stated in our previous discussions. In fact, much of the debate around the Joint Venture proposal seems to me to indicate a clash of cultures between those who seem to think that life is tough now but eventually things will return to 'normal' and those of us who recognise that we must actually adapt to the 'new normal'. We can only do this by being brave, radical, innovative and much more businesslike and that means taking more calculated and managed risks and working faster than in the past. The alternative is an inevitable decline in services as our resources reduce further while demands on them increase and I know we are both passionate about protecting services – particularly for our most vulnerable residents.

No-one knows better than you that this administration, in the short time that we have been together, has achieved an enviable and envied record of protecting services from the impact of financial cuts, unprecedented in a lifetime. We have done this by being proactive, going early, staying one step ahead and addressing our challenges before the crisis hits. In the Cabinet's strongly held view, the Joint Venture proposal is an important step in that direction as well as a great opportunity to strengthen Cornwall's resilience in the face of the coming storm.

Jim, I am sorry that this next step on the journey is a step too far for you but I will always be grateful for all you have done in supporting me as a Cabinet Member and as my deputy over the past three and a half years. You have done a great job of covering my 6 o'clock and I suspect more daggers will find their way through without you there to cover my back.

Yours aye

Alec

Mr Currie's message:

Alec

I am resigning from the Cabinet today as I feel that I have pushed the cause of retaining Council control over Joint Ventures as far as I can with the Cabinet.

The financial risks involved with the rush into the new Joint Venture proposals are unacceptable. The JV is basically too large to control. We have wasted £42m+ on the Unitary, £42m+ on the Incinerator and we are now proposing to risk a great deal more on the Joint Venture.

I welcome your somewhat ambiguous offer to respect Full Council decisions on the 23rd October but I know you will never let go.

I could not leave local government with billions of pounds of Cornish Taxpayers money at risk and on my conscience.

Alec, this matter has never been personal.

Yours aye

Jim

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  • lance99  |  October 14 2012, 4:53PM

    This is a shambles on two counts - 1. The privatisation itself and 2. The lack of democracy and transparency of decision making at CC. Outsourcing/privatisation of major local services is flawed and we can readily find examples of these failures - http://tinyurl.com/8qyzern - the link also refers to BT. The democratic process seems to have eluded the Cabinet but I learn that the CC constitution can be used for the Cabinet to decide policy without an overall majority of Councillors voting in favour. So it is obvious that the Constitution needs amending. Firms tending for contracts have one objective - profit, so this is likely to be made to the detriment of the services provided and the salary and conditions of those working for contractors; so taking money out of the local economy.Whichever way you look at it it's loose/loose for Cornwall.

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  • alitheia  |  October 11 2012, 9:01PM

    Riding roughshod over the democratic process may not be quite so legal as is being made out. A few weeks ago Robertson said the Cabinet could ignore the decision of a majority at a full Council meeting to ditch this privatisation policy. Now he says that a majority vote of those present at a full Council meeting is a "material consideration" which the Cabinet should take into account in its "legal and constitutional decision making". Why has it taken so long for Robertson to acknowledge that the Council Constitution and legislation clearly states the full Council makes policy and the Cabinet implements this but cannot work outside that policy? Someone appears to be playing fast and loose with the Council's Constitution and decision making processes. This is dangerous territory legally and for local democracy in Cornwall.

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  • shagrats  |  October 11 2012, 3:13PM

    I get the feeling that all this is just because of the vote of no confidence coming up. When he was on the radio a few weeks ago he said that the councillors were not clever enough to understand the complex issues, giving the impression that his cabinet of 12 were the only clever guys in a sea of retards. Now all the charm offensive is coming out now that HIS job is on the line. I don't buy it. We saw the real Mr Robertson a few weeks ago, arrogant, pushy, autocratic and giving the impression that he was in fact the stupid one, for behaving in such a manner on public radio. As someone who has ran roughshod over the democratic process because its legal, I hope he learns a lesson from all of this.

    |   8
  • roger_angove  |  October 11 2012, 2:53PM

    @ BarryG There's a great deal in what you write. Ultimately, the 'Joint Venture' is a business proposition and needs to be objectively considered as such. However, this thread is principally concerned with Robertson's attempts to hang on to his place on the tax payer funded gravy train. He has conflated the two issues by his antics and it seems to me that until we are rid of him there is no-one capable of an objective assessment of the business case. Fortunately I think we will be rid of him next week. Not because of 'people power' but because he is an embarrassment to his own political colleagues. Imagine if you were a Conservative looking for votes in the next Council Election, or even one of our Conservative MP's seeking re-election; how would you feel if the brand name you were running under was chiefly associated in the voters' perception with Alec Robertson? Exactly! I'd vote to be rid of him too.

    |   9
  • juliet92x  |  October 11 2012, 12:58PM

    @BarryG at last, someone has some sense!! @Olly_Gark Here we go again! Your bitter, twisted words are lies I'm afraid. I still don't understand why you have got a personal problem with my dad, but I suppose that's YOUR problem. Incompetent sexist? Business failures? Can't handle his money? You're insulting all Freemasons? If my dad got "thousand a week tax free" that would be lovely but again - YOU ARE WRONG. In the immortal words of Kate Nash: You must eat so many lemons, 'cos you are so BITTER. I'm guessing you are from St.Dennis because you have mentioned the incinerator AGAIN. Dry your eyes and drop the bone.

    |   -14
  • BarryG  |  October 11 2012, 12:42PM

    Olly-Gark This is my point, whatever your views on Robertson, that will be settled by a leadership vote next week. This other deal is not political, it has been run by the executive arm of the council at the full councils request, this isn't new it's been discussed over the last 2 years. IF (& I agree there is an if because we don't have the facts) this protects and creates jobs etc then regardless of who is in charge, whatever the politics if it is good for Cornwall it should proceed. Labour, Lib Dem and Conservatives have done this successfully around the country, why shouldn't Cornwall. Stop confusing views on leaders or forthcoming elections with business opportunities which might just be good for us. Cornwall is just starting to look progressive in difficult times, but some of the views expressed seem to want to pull us into some socialist, the public sector knows everything, all business is corrupt, blinkered view of the world.

    |   -7
  • DoUntoOthers  |  October 11 2012, 12:37PM

    Council services and health care will be based around profit margin. No matter how you dress it up the commercial company is not there with altruistic intent. It will squeeze profit from wherever it can. That's you and me one way or another. Despite the worlds financial issues we still think we can press ahead at the same speed. We need to stop trying to go forward for a year or two and shore up what we have now in my opinion. Sadly though I think the pressure to evolve is unrelenting so if its not this year, I think it will happen :(

    |   5
  • jopub  |  October 11 2012, 12:34PM

    Notice the phrase "next step on the journey". That tells you all you need to know and this man must go.

  • BarryG  |  October 11 2012, 11:30AM

    There is such a lot of nonsesene being talked about this private public partnership, tons of local authorities run these all over the country for such services. And before you ask yes I have heard of Somerset, but even there (considered a disaster) the arguements are over the level of savings, the council is still financially better off. Shall we all stop having relationships because some end in break-ups ? This one looks quite small in comparision only £20-30M of the Councils £470M annual budget, whats the fuss. We get savings, jobs and investment and don't have to sack a load of council workers. All this is political posturing ahead of elections and like the vote on a stadium no one is focusing on what is good for the people of Cornwall.

    |   -13
  • cheekyman_jr  |  October 11 2012, 9:09AM

    "We have wasted £42m+ on the Unitary, £42m+ on the Incinerator and we are now proposing to risk a great deal more on the Joint Venture." Hear that Mr Robertson? WASTED...

    |   11

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