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Cornwall Council to press ahead with privatising services despite councillors' call to withdraw

By RWhitehouse  |  Posted: September 05, 2012

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CORNWALL Council's leading cabinet say they will press ahead with plans to join together with a private company to provide services ignoring the call from a majority of councillors urging the authority to withdraw.

In a tense council chamber at County Hall on Tuesday councillors voted in favour of a motion – 46 for, 29 against and 14 abstentions – which called for the council to withdraw from a plan to form a new company with a private firm to deliver services such as housing benefits, libraries and human resources.

But today the council's cabinet issued a statement indicating that it would carry on with plans to privatise services. Liberal Democrat councillors criticised the Conservative-led cabinet saying the decision to ignore yesterday's vote was "arrogant".

Under the support services plan being drawn up by the council it would form a joint venture with a company which would also provide services for other public sector organisations in Cornwall such as health trusts.

Two bidders – BT and Computer Sciences Corporation – are competing for the contract which will be worth between £200m and £800m.

The plans were brought back for discussion in the council chamber on Tuesday by members who are concerned about putting a private firm in control of council services.

However today (Wednesday) the council issued a statement that it would forge ahead with plans to invite the two bidding companies to tender for the contract.

Council chief executive Kevin Lavery told councillors that he believed that the proposals were for the good of the people of Cornwall.

He claimed that it would enable the council to make significant savings whilst also creating hundreds of new jobs and could, eventually, result in profits being reinvested into council services.

But opponents claimed that there was no evidence that the jobs would be created and suggested that hundreds of jobs would be cut before the benefits would be seen.

Cabinet member Jim Currie, who had previously expressed his own concerns about the proposals, said he was worried about placing procurement services with a private company saying:  "Putting £4.3billion of spending power with a proxy over 10 years is dangerous."

Independent councillor Andrew Wallis, who put forward the motion to council, said he was most concerned about losing democratic accountability for services.

He said that with plans for the managing board to have five seats with just two taken by the council it could leave the council with no influence over the future of services.

Officers said that while the council would have a minority interest any policy decisions regarding services would be made by the council and the contract with the private partner would be subject to conditions.

Mebyon Kernow councillor Andrew Long, who seconded the motion, said that there was a lack of detail in the proposals saying that the guarantees of new jobs were not backed by any evidence of how they would be created or what type of jobs they would be.

Cabinet members warned that unless the council forged ahead with the plans frontline services would have to be cut due to an expected drop in funding from central government.

Cabinet member Steve Double said: "I appreciate that some members remain concerned about the proposal and unfortunately we were unable to share the confidential information which would have helped them to better understand the background to this decision. I would, however, like to repeat that we are not privatising Cornwall Council services.

"Under this proposal we will be joining with a private sector company to form a partnership which will then deliver these services, although the responsibility for setting policy and strategy will remain with the council.

"The facts are that entering into this partnership will help us to protect frontline services, create 500 new jobs and reduce costs by at least £5m a year. This is surely in the best interests of the people of Cornwall."

Jeremy Rowe, leader of the Liberal Democrat group at Cornwall Council said: "I am appalled at this

latest display of arrogance from the Conservatives at County Hall.

"At

yesterday's meeting more than half of the democratically elected councillors

present voted to stop this privatisation process, yet today a select few tucked

away in the top floor bunker in Truro have decided to ignore that clear view

from the Council and plough on regardless.

"They have no mandate for this

outsourcing project but they still have the arrogance to assume they know

better than just about everybody else. It is a black day for democracy in

Tory-led Cornwall."

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  • cheekyman_jr  |  September 14 2012, 9:31AM

    talking of Somerset Council sueing a partner...it looks like CSC are having the same problems by staff - http://tinyurl.com/9h4cmpw by investors - http://tinyurl.com/3mvu5pr

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  • scared_worker  |  September 09 2012, 4:52PM

    Do you really think that the Cornwall Council Cabinet actually care what the people of Cornwall and it's elected Councillors think?... Cornwall Council have people at the top who think they are business men and Councillors who think they are politicians, they are not... they just don't have the experience or business savy to make the right decisions to make this work. We are being led into a shambles that in a few years time will lead us into a position that Somerset Council are currently in, with the council sueing the "partner" because they deliver what they agreed, the bare minimum of service to tick the box... and we will end up paying for it all. I recently visited North Yorkshire, the streets were spotless, regular bus services to almost anywhere and the roads pothole free with the verges cut and you could actually see what they spent their council tax on. If we think we have cause for complaint now... then just wait.

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  • StIvesDiceman  |  September 06 2012, 8:13PM

    The cabinet has managed, in one day, to do more harm for democracy than Hitler managed in 5 years. There must be grounds for a judicial review, Illegal? Possibly; Irrational? Certainly; Unfair? - Without a Doubt (unless you are one of those in line for the backhanders when the contracts are dished uot LOL)

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  • cweatherhill  |  September 06 2012, 5:33PM

    We must also demand the names of the Cabinet Members who have pushed this through. By FOI if necessary. They need to be named, shamed and thrown out of office next year.

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  • cweatherhill  |  September 06 2012, 5:29PM

    So much for what little democracy we in Cornwall had left (especially as many decisions are made by a secretive and totally unelected Duchy Council). Either this Cabinet system has to go, or the Council must. A full Council voted against and a minority push it through anyway. NOT acceptable, especially as money we pay through our Council tax will end up going to private firms up-country ,instead of benefitting the local economy. This Council is a shambles. People out near the Merry Maidens are trying to get Enforcement Officers out to put an end to illegal and ugly development there, and, after agreeing a site visit they never made, no one's now responding. I submitted a scheme for comment by planners, on their invitation to do so, 3 months ago. I've e-mailed reminders every week for the last 2 months. No response and, in the meantime, the client's getting angry and (being self-employed) I'm not having a pay-day. THREE times I've had planning applications held up while the planners demand a flood risk assessment for proposals to build above existing storeys. The last one was 40 feet above the level of Porthmeor Beach, for God's sake! Meanwhile, as the Council tells us they're trying to cut expenditure, and within 4 miles of my home, they've completely resurfaced and re-lined the car park at their own Penzance Office; installed a totally unwarranted traffic island at Truthwall, laid suburban concrete kerbs in a rural lane and, only yesterday (and, please note AFTER the holiday season, not before it), they were repainting all the yellow lines in St Just. None of it necessary, let alone essential. And, of course, they have a superfluous figurehead on a salary of £245,000.

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  • wotsupdoc  |  September 06 2012, 3:52PM

    Unitary appeared against the wishes of the majority...and now we are to have the wishes of the minority foisted on us again. Come on Unitary Coucillors - stand up for the majority of people in Cornwall and halt these proposals now!

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  • D-Head  |  September 06 2012, 12:48PM

    Thank you, Homerjay. But in a way you are partly responsible for this debacle having pointed out some months back that there is very little difference between 'the cabinet' and zombies. Clearly the zombies have taken over County Mall.....

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  • steph  |  September 06 2012, 12:46PM

    I don't have anywhere near enough information to know if this is a good idea or not but I am absolutely certain that it is a bad idea for decisions like this to be made by a small group behind closed doors. What is the point of us electing Councillors to represent us if they aren't even given the information to make a decision, let alone allowed to vote on it? Isn't there a process for a vote of no confidence in the members of the cabinet? And where were the other Councillors? They should have been out in force to oppose this and make their voices heard. This Unitary Authority is a complete farce and I sincerely hope nobody will be voting Conservative in the elections next May.

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  • Phil_lip  |  September 05 2012, 11:52PM

    dodzil, it will get a settlement that will be more than it would cost for it to buy out of the contract just like great western I think it was back then did out of the ne train line. This is a ridiculous scam that keeps getting worse, in a minute everyone will believe the hype of anything that is said to be bad about somewhere after a stooge has been put in charge and it screws up. Barclays, LLoyds, RBS all caught with their trousers down, Labour, then the Tories in bed with murdoch, policing, schools and the list goes on and but we are to trust these people, and people like them to corporately run the things that are a basic right in this country.

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  • homerjay  |  September 05 2012, 11:44PM

    Thank you Dee, it's Mandy's post democratic era, perhaps we should start a new group, Occupy the Council, can't wait for Scottie to 'beam them up' anytime soon

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