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Leader of Cornwall Council Alec Robertson ousted in dramatic style

By This is Cornwall  |  Posted: October 16, 2012

Alec Robertson

Alec Robertson

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Cornwall Council leader Alec Robertson was removed from his post in dramatic style this afternoon.

A motion of a vote of no confidence in the Tory leader was carried by 63 votes to 49.

The vote had been triggered following Mr Roberston's decision to ignore an earlier council vote opposing plans to part-privatise dozens of council services.

There were dramatic scenes in the council chamber, particularly at one point when security guards were called into action after cabinet member Mark Kaczmarek accused Lib Dem group leader Jeremy Rowe of being a 'back-stabber".

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Council chairman Pat Harvey took exception to the term and ordered Mr Kaczmarek to stop and sit down, but when he refused she called for security.

After a short adjournment they returned to the chamber and Mr Kaczmarek apologised to Mr Rowe.

It was a bizarre diversion from the main topic of the day which was the vote of no confidence.

A long debate saw councillors from all sides speaking, with those in favour of the motion raising Mr Robertson's recent performance, particularly in relation to issues such as the shared services project and the waste contract.

On the other side, supporters of Mr Robertson pointed to his hard work and the achievements which have been made under his leadership.

Armand Toms said that Mr Robertson had made 'amazing achievements' considering where the council had been, while Graeme Hicks said the achievements of the council had not been recognised due to a 'hostile local media'.

Some councillors questioned the need for the vote with tory councillor John Fitter accusing the Lib Dems as using it to start their campaign for next year's local elections.

Speaking after the vote Graham Walker, the independent councillor who seconded the motion said “I am pleased with how it turned out but sad for Alec. I do recognise the hard work he has done, but he got it wrong.

“He ignored the wishes of the council on the shared services project and today he has paid the price for that.”

Pat Harvey and Neil Burden paid tribute to outgoing leader, thanking him for his hard work over the last three and a half years.

We asked cabinet member Steve Double for a quote after the meeting but he declined and said that Mr Robertson would also not be speaking to the media.

Former Cabinet member Jim Currie was elected as Mr Robertson’s successor this afternoon at a meeting where four cabinet members instantly resigned following the result.

Mr Currie was put forward for leader of the council by independent councillor Bob Egerton who earlier tabled the vote of no confidence in Mr Robertson.

Conservative councillor Mike Eathorne-Gibbons put forward cabinet member Neil Burden (Ind) as candidate.

However in the vote Mr Currie came out on top with 49 votes to Mr Burden’s 46. Five councillors abstained from the vote.

Immediately after the result was announced Cabinet member Julian German (Ind) said he resigned with immediate effect and was followed by Graeme Hicks (Ind), Chris Ridgers (Con) and Steve Double (Con).

The council's webcast, which is live streamed on www.thisiscornwall.co.uk, has had nearly 2,000 viewers this morning, with #ccwebcast trending third nationally on Twitter.

• For reaction from the meeting see the West Briton on Thursday.

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  • Itsthefuture  |  October 17 2012, 7:06PM

    "Hmmm. So will the public believe this or will they ask Mr Rowe to confirm publicly what his private views are about Mr Alec robertson? Will the public challenge their councillors We can be a leader in many areas in cornwall, we can be aspirational to our children, or we can be controlled by councillors, spend our time looking at our feet and dragging ourselves to depression. Its a fine line between the two, but which is the better thought? As for Mr Lavery. Where were all these comments when we had seven chief execs with seven separate deputies etc etc hemorrhaging tax payers money and a failing council that wasnt even ready for unitary when Mr Lavery got there. But if we have to make cuts, we have to make cuts - Or we have to ask people for more money. Which is it to be? The people dont want to pay more so you have to cut and as is clearly the case, turkeys do not vote for xmas especially those who prefer their extortionate superann over the requirement for the needy to pay more council tax. And it may surprise many that the media can somehow put a spin on councillors (many of which have not run a business) causing Cornwall to become a laughing stock in the Uk. If councillors had thought Cornwall was on the periphery and not cared about, they have made it that way now. Where in the world do people who have never run a business before get a chance to vote out the economic decisions proposed by someone who has a PHD in their role. Its a once in a lifetime chance to go for shared services, and it will not come back, but thats a decision the councillors, not council, may well be making, and they should be held accountable for that Where will the money come from now to replace the savings it would have made? Do the councillors know what it would have saved? Which front line services do the Councillors believe they should cut to take care of the economic imbalance? If I was Mr Lavery I would ask that question direct to the councillors seing as they believe they know best, so their constituents can see what they have truly caused in pursuit of their political battle and backbiting. Lets show these councillors for what they are. Lets get them all in a room on stage and ask them the economic questions they should be asked without support, then lets decide to make decisions on how many councillors we really need. Where in the world do you have a ratio of councillors to constituents we have here. More importantly, what message does it send out to the business world as we seek to pull quality businesses here. I would be embarrassed to promote cornwall now as a business. And as was said when the councillors (not the council) voted against supporting the stadium for cornwall for reasons unbeknown to anyone, may the last person to leave cornwall, turn the lights out. We are done. I repeat..... We can be a leader in many areas in cornwall, we can be aspirational to our children, or we can be controlled by councillors, spend our time looking at our feet and dragging ourselves to depression. Its a fine line between the two, but which is the better thought? No...its not a jibe at anyone,its a question to those who think this is a game of ego and power and winning a marbles game to lose a war. Which is the better thought?"

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  • Green Ginger Studios  |  October 17 2012, 9:33AM

    More Independents because they're "patriots"? No, the Independents have shown themselves to be malleable and naive. They have allowed themselves to be shaped by the whims of the cabinet and thus enable the displays of bluff arrogance we have witnessed from Robertson, Hicks and Co. Cornwall needs a Pirate Party.

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  • JoPub1  |  October 17 2012, 9:05AM

    just heard Toms on RC.... says yesterday was a bad day... surprize surprize. Yesterday was a great day for democracy because arrogant people were put down and the creeping dictatorship was given a kick. Of course this does not mean everything is fine and if big cuts are essential there will be some big disagreements coming up. However it should mean that the "throw them to the wolves/privatise everything that moves " mentality will be restrained. The real problem is Lavery of course and until he is told to go the privatisation has not been dealt with.

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  • JoPub1  |  October 17 2012, 9:05AM

    just heard Toms on RC.... says yesterday was a bad day... surprize surprize. Yesterday was a great day for democracy because arrogant people were put down and the creeping dictatorship was given a kick. Of course this does not mean everything is fine and if big cuts are essential there will be some big disagreements coming up. However it should mean that the "throw them to the wolves/privatise everything that moves " mentality will be restrained. The real problem is Lavery of course and until he is told to go the privatisation has not been dealt with.

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  • Macloud  |  October 17 2012, 9:04AM

    Good question Fistral 20. As I said in my previous post, bidders enter these processes knowing that the bid costs are at their own risk and it is standard industry practice for tender documents to make this clear. They should therefore have no claim for abortive costs if the Council does not proceed with this privatisation project. Alec Robertson's statement in last week's newspapers that CSC and BT would have claims against the Council if the process is halted is therefore difficult to understand. This seems to be on a par with the threat that was made that councillors could be sued for raising legitimate questions about the track record of bidders. The Council's lawyers should put a stop to these sorts of legal threats which appear to be without foundation and could well be construed as scaremongering designed to influence votes. Hopefully the new Leader of the Council will make it clear that this is no way to conduct business.

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  • JoPub1  |  October 17 2012, 9:04AM

    just heard Toms on RC.... says yesterday was a bad day... surprize surprize. Yesterday was a great day for democracy because arrogant people were put down and the creeping dictatorship was given a kick. Of course this does not mean everything is fine and if big cuts are essential there will be some big disagreements coming up. However it should mean that the "throw them to the wolves/privatise everything that moves " mentality will be restrained. The real problem is Lavery of course and until he is told to go the privatisation has not been dealt with.

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  • Fistral20  |  October 17 2012, 7:56AM

    Excellent news that Robertson has gone, but can anyone tell me why he said in the Cornish Guardian that if the privatisation agenda is scrapped, which it must surely now be, that BT and CMC (?) will be seeking compensation from Cornwall CC because of the money they've already spent on privatisation. If they've already spent money that's their problem, and they should have no recourse against a Council who haven't agreed to proceed with these plans. Or was it just scaremongering by Robertson in a forlorn effort to save his skin....

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  • Truro_Kernow  |  October 16 2012, 10:37PM

    Well hopefully more control will be taken by the Independents as many of them are Cornish Patriots. Kernow bys vyken!

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  • twain  |  October 16 2012, 10:22PM

    eu_blues 9.07 You are of course right. As for privatisation, you'll not pay someone else (and the shareholders) cheaper than you can do it yourself. Big business runs the world for the benefit of big business and ever increasing profits. We suffer with higher cost and poorer service. The worker suffers with lower pay and poorer conditions. Just ask the dustmen or care workers for instance. Just ask those that suffered MRSA in dirty hospitals and the compensation paid out. Big business wants it all including the serfs to doff their caps for a crust.

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  • robertwebber1  |  October 16 2012, 10:15PM

    Some Figures of Interest: - Breakdown on Vote on new Leadership: For Currie:- CON 12, IND 6, LD 26, MK 4, SAI 1 For Burden: - CON 26, IND 20 Abstain: - IND 1, LD 3, LAB 1 Absent:- CON 9, IND 2, LD 8, MK 2, SAI 1 So the Tories have torn themselves to shreds. A Tory is therefore elected as leader of the council primarily on LD and MK votes while an IND fails narrowly to be elected leader receiving the majority of the Tory group. You could not make it up its Alice in Wonderland. The big question is now what is going to be the make up of the new executive:- Presumably CON (rebels thereof)/LD/IND (rebels therof) /MK

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