The Aims of Cornwall Council’s Administration

Cornwall Council’s Cabinet launched their aims today at County Hall. These aims are the foundation – in partnership with the wider membership – of a four year partnership with a review after the first two years. The aims are:

This administration will work to establish a positive, forward thinking Council, representing the whole of Cornwall. This will be a four year partnership with a ‘review’ after the first two years. We will work with our MPs to lobby government for a fair deal from Government and plan for the four year period, develop policies that reflect the future needs of Cornwall within the current financial and political constraints – these will be based on the following:

  • A ‘can do’ positive and responsive approach.
  • A ‘lean’ council focusing on providing value for money, cutting wasteful spending and delivering the most efficient service. We will review the use of consultants.
  • We will develop, enhance and improve the Council’s relationships with our partners, the Parishes and Towns and the public.

We have a responsibility to deliver services but need to be clear what can and cannot be sustained; budget appropriately; establish what we must protect, what needs to be devolved and what may need to be sacrificed. A vision for Cornwall over the next four years will be the basis of all our work. We need to build the future, not reluctantly surrender the status quo in the light of government cuts and a shortage of funding.

Our environment is fundamentally important, the public demand clean beaches, accessible countryside, community services such as libraries, a safe and protected environment and good roads and transport. We must deliver.

A sustainable economy: the key to the future. We will invest in Cornwall, fight for Cornish jobs and business and use European funding effectively and strategically. Economic development and regeneration will be a priority. We recognise the crucial role the EU plays in Cornwall’s economic development and will engage fully to seek benefit for all.

Protect the vulnerable. Some health services, social care and services for the elderly, children and those with disabilities are under constant threat. This creates negativity which we must overcome.

We will endeavour to support young people into the world of work through learning, training and apprenticeship and address the issue of affordable transport.

Homes. An area of great concern to all. We need to build more Council Houses for local needs, use available funds to support affordable housing and sustainable development.

Planning. Clear policies, a consistent approach, straightforward procedures and real consultation could create a stronger, less contentious planning process that everyone understands.

Transport. Access for all to the best transport network that helps residents become less reliant on their cars. We will make repairing our roads a priority.

The Green Agenda – we will promote sustainable, renewable energy production, support other sources of non-fossil fuel energy and protect our environment throughout.

Heritage, Tourism, Culture and the unique aspects of Cornwall will be protected, enhanced and used to maximum economic effect.

We will encourage communities to grow, develop and become more self-sufficient. Cornwall Council needs to create a ‘will’ to support Towns and Parishes, devolve resources as well as responsibilities and create strong, resilient and sustainable communities.

We will pursue policies base on social justice, equality, working together and fighting for the needs of Cornwall. This must be underpinned by a fair and realistic budget. We do not set out any aims or constraints or support any national policy at this stage – we will look at the figures, cost the vision, work from the starting point of what is possible and acceptable to Cornish tax payers and move forward on that basis. We believe there are benefits from bringing Health and Social Care together. Car Parking charges have been a contentious issue but are an example of budget contributions limiting the flexibility that communities can employ. This must be reviewed.

Cuts, diminishing services, fewer resources, constant restructuring in the light of the financial situation and Government priorities have been the watchwords in recent months. We will fight for fairer funding, bring as much investment into the area as we can and build the best, most inclusive, vibrant and successful Cornwall possible.

The Cabinet

The Cabinet

The First Week as a Portfolio Holder

The first week as Portfolio Holder has passed at a blistering pace. I am still chuffed to bits on having the Children and Young People portfolio, and I am looking forward to meeting everyone who contributes to this directorate. I am not one who just sits at County Hall, and will be looking forward to actually meeting the people who are in the field making sure our young people get the right service.

I have also been made very welcome in the role and everyone has been extremely helpful in bring me up to speed on current situations. More in-depth briefings will be happening in the next few weeks, so there will be a lot to take on.

It has been a good start.

Cornwall Councils New Cabinet

Today I was made a Cabinet Member at Cornwall Council as one of the Independent Group nominations to the Cabinet. No portfolio has yet been assigned, as that will be confirmed tomorrow afternoon. There are a few areas I am very interested in, but these are just expressions of interest and it will be up to the Leader to assign the portfolio.

Congratulations should also go to my fellow Cabinet Members; John Pollard (leader), Jeremy Rowe (dep leader), Julian German, Geoff Brown, Edwina Hannaford, Alex Folkes, Adam Paynter, Bert Biscoe and Judith Haycock. I am looking forward to working with all of them.

The work is going to be hard as there are tough times ahead. Also the Council will be working under a new governance model which will require a lot more co-operation between the portfolio holders and the portfolio advisory committees (PAC). I also look forward to working with the wider membership of the council, officers and the public. These will be key to pushing Cornwall Council forward.

For those who think I will be suddenly change from poacher to gamekeeper fear not. I will still be tweeting and blogging. I hope using both these platforms I will bring a greater understanding as to how the council works and my new role. if needs be, I will be there to highlight concerns I have publicly.

More tomorrow!

Tory Leadership saying one thing, high-command saying different?

With just a day to go until the full membership of Cornwall Council meet and decide the administration (for at least the next year) it seems the Tory Leader at Cornwall Council is saying one thing, but the high command are saying completely different. In a transcript I have come across the Tory’s spell out a clear message. It is as follows:

“I have to reiterate that all of the association Chairman in Cornwall remain unwaveringly of the view that the opposition is the only practical way forward. The overnight (Friday’s decision on the 4/4/2 split) news reinforces that view. All of you may rule the day if you decide otherwise.

Of course this is not a welcome message to some and is sometimes considered as interference. No so. We are part of the group for the simple reason we offer advice which is not always regarded as necessary or helpful. In this instance we would not be doing our job if we said nothing. For those re-elected group members it is very difficult to said contemplate the next four years given the previous period of government, albeit in coalition. But all of you were elected to represent your wards as conservative candidates and not, as one has commented, to sit around for four years doing nothing (if in opposition). That isn’t the role of a Councillor it is to represent your wards. We have a superb message which did not inspire the electorate to vote for us in significant enough numbers and we did suffer from the UKIP surge. But that’s life

Going into coalition probably leaves Labour as the opposition and that would be disastrous in many ways not least giving them a platform they do not deserve and providing them with council wide activities that would otherwise go to us. Active Councillors should seek to involve themselves in internal as well as external groups of influence; the LEP is an obvious one but there are many like this. We should seek to nibble away at the alternative view. In coalition we will be regarded as the promoters of this or that and be unable to add a critique.

And opposition provides us with more time to talk to the electorate, gauge their concerns, note them and act on them. And be ready to step in when the administration fails and to broker a much better position; for Cornwall and ourselves.

We need to ask ourselves why we want to be tied to a governing group were we will be seen as the junior partner, but still held accountable for everything that goes wrong. What is the pressing need to form a coalition in the first place? Is there a current crises within Cornwall of such magnitude that without forming a coalition the council will cease to function? Being been told by a Conservative Councillor that is is the view of (some) Conservative members that they do not want to sit around for four years doing nothing is a disgraceful reading of the function of elected paid Councillors if they are prepared to waste their time for four years at the council taxpayers’ expense.

By far the best way forward is to form a constructive opposition to the governing group. In this way we can remain active, promote our own solutions where we see things can be improved and formulate attractive policies to put before the electorate in four years time and as the inevitable bi-elections in the meantime. I also have to conclude that finding ourselves in a coalition at the time of the next general election just as our party seeks a nationwide mandate to govern and with inhibited with out own electorate at the same time, is a recipe for disaster”

So there you have it, the Tory Leader is saying we ‘really’ wanted to be in it. But as it has been shown hurdle after hurdle was put in place until such times a decision had to be made without the Tory’s in the administration. And now the reality is the associations and Tory high-command think very differently, and what to be in opposition.

Why? I think that is fairly obvious, as the biggest fish to catch is parliamentary seats, and with all six Cornish MP seats having close margins there is a lot at stake.

Horse-trading and unanswered calls

Cornwall’s residents might be wondering why it has taken so long to form an administration at Cornwall Council. However, the reality of forming an administration that will actually works is not that simple.

For example no one party has an over all majority and even with just two parties getting together, it still does not guarantee the formation of an administration. Why? Well, it is the full council of 123 which votes for a Leader, and to guarantee a preferred choice for Leader you need 62 votes. Without a Leader you cannot form a Cabinet, and with no Cabinet, there is no administration. Furthermore, the first full council meeting is on the 21st; so that is the first opportunity for anything to be officially decided.

This is why for the last two weeks the various groups and parties have been locked in talks to find common ground that everyone can agree with. This in itself is not a simple task, but needs to be done or else the administration would quickly fail. This cannot be allowed to happen as the cuts in funding and pressures that Cornwall Council faces in the next four years will need a lot of unity between the different groups for services to be delivered.

As the discussions have progressed, the smaller parties at the council felt it was up to the big-three to sort out the administration. This left the Indy’s, Lib Dems and Tory’s to have more focused meetings, though still keeping the smaller parties informed. However, there is always a point when actual decisions have to be made as to who is in/out of any administration. This came to a head last week when it was felt there was enough talking and agreements had to be reached.

On Thursday the big-three met in their individual groups during the day, with the Indy’s meeting at 4pm. The Indy Group gave the group leaders three options for the administration to take to the other group. Sadly, the Conservative Leader did not feel the need to stay around to find out the result from the Indy’s even though the Lib Dems did. So nothing further could be discussed, which is very disappointing.

With time running out it was imperative that an agreement had to be reached by Friday. The Lib Dems and Indy’s reached agreement on who could be the preferred Leader and the Cabinet split which followed on from Thursdays discussions. It just needed the Conservatives to either agree or disagree. This proved rather problematic, as the Tory Leader was not returning calls. Various messages were left, and deadlines were given for a response. These past and still nothing firm was coming from the Tory’s. A final deadline was given.

With the final deadline fast approaching the Tory Leader finally responded. Though, this was just a call to say more time was needed. At that point, it was felt enough time had been given and now an administration would be formed without the Tory’s. Even if more time had been given to the Tory leader, there was still no guarantee decision would come from her.

The now preferred administration being four Indy’s, four Lib Dems and the two remaining Cabinet positions coming from the smaller parties. The preferred Leader of the Council is John Pollard, and the deputy-leader being a Lib Dems which means Jeremy Rowe. It is also likely the Chairman will be an Independent too.

For me I got the feeling that many in the Tory Group had more desire to be in opposition, but could not just put themselves into it for fear of being criticized for doing this and it would be better if they were ‘forced’ into opposition. As you can only put up so many hurdles until there was no other option but to leave the Tory’s out.

Of course the Tory Leader was quick to put out a press-statement saying the offer was unfair etc. However, I read it more as crocodile tears, rather than being really upset.

Roll on Tuesday as anything could happen before that!

Two days into the new Council

The new term of Cornwall Council started on Tuesday when those elected officially took up office. For old hands like me, it was good to see old colleagues, but it was also tinged with sadness by not seeing friends who had not made it.

Tuesday started with a welcome from the CEO before the induction programme started. I was pleased to see it there was no hard-sell, just the right information given so it did not overload everyone. Those behind the induction did a fantastic job, and they should be congratulated. Especially Democratic Services (and Miles), who were the real stars of the induction.

However, the main aim of the induction days was for the 123 Cornwall Councillors to meet, chat and get to know each other. After all, we will be working with each other for the next four years. I know it is hard to get the measure of people in just a few days, but I am very pleased meeting so many friendly and interesting people. I know this might sound like a cliche, but I have a good feeling about this council. Day one was long, but passed without incident.

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The new Council

Day two was on the same lines as day one, a light introduction to the various departments and officers of the council. There was briefings on communications, finance, and equality and diversity training. Again, there was no hard-sell, but an overview on the current position the council is in.

The second day saw the first protest take place at County Hall. This was about the re-election of Colin Brewer. At least 80 protesters gathered outside the main entrance and gave their views to a handful of Cornwall Councillors. The protesters made it clear how they felt, but did so with respect and dignity. Those Councillors present listened, which I hope the protesters appreciated. For me, I hope this situation is sorted, and sorted quickly.

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Protesters gather outside County Hall

More training and briefing will be held into next week which will lead up to the 21st May, when the full Council meets for the first time. Up to that meeting, the various groups and group leaders will be meeting and re-meeting to thrash-out who will form the administration. As at the meeting on the 21st, the Leader of the Council, Chairman and deputy Chairman will be voted into office. When that is done, the administration can be formed.

Statement from Independent Members at Cornwall Council

The first day at Cornwall Council has passed with new and old Councillors coming together for the first-time. On the whole, it has been a good day and great to meet so many new people who have common interests.

I have been asked by Independent Members to publish the following statement on proposals for a new administration at Cornwall Council. It is as follows:

“Following the results of the Council elections we have collectively agreed to seek the assistance and co-operation of all political groups at Cornwall Council to form an administration. We will do all we can do to form an alliance of all groups which will ensure at Cornwall Council has an effective administration.

On the Leadership, Chairman and Membership of Committees we are not in a position to comment until we have heard from the other groups.

We accept that these negotiations will take time; we all agree that we as Independents only have the interest of the people of Cornwall to worry about”

I will keep you informed as best I can

Horsetrading and Group Meetings

Tomorrow, after the Bank Holiday weekend, the Council and its new Councillors start this term of office. All those who did not get re-elected, or did not stand officially stop being members of Cornwall Council. The authority will change, not only because there are 53 new Councillors, but the administration is very likely to be different from what people have been used to these last four years.

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The question on many people’s lips will be who will form the administration as no one group has the overall majority to form an administration including electing a Leader of the Cabinet. And before people think it will be all sorted tomorrow it is best to put you out of your misery by saying the new administration will not be sorted tomorrow. In fact, it might not be sorted this week owning to the fact a lot has to be discussed before the new administration knows which way it is heading. The election results tell you it is not business as usual.

So what are the options? I think there are two options available. The first one is one of/the largest groups tries to form a minority administration. Though to be fair I would be very surprised if one group tried to form a minority administration, due to the complications of tying to get your preferred Leader of the Cabinet elected, and without a Leader you cannot form an administration. The other and more likely scenario is there will be another coalition. If it is a coalition who would be part of it? it could be two, three or four groups!

Lets look at how the groups fared since the last election in 2009:

  • Conservative Group: went to the largest group, to the third largest. As the 2009 election gave them 50 Councillors. Now they have 31. A massive drop.
  • Lib Dem: Now is the largest group on the council by one, having 36 Councillors (That’s of the majority of Independents form a group). This is two down from 38 in 2009
  • Independents: technically could have 35 (32 in 2009). but that’s only if they all belong to one group.
  • Labour: Have eight, and have seen the largest gain of eight from the 2009 results (they did win a by-election in 2011)
  • Mebyon Kernow: Four officially, a slight improvement of one from 2009
  • UKIP: A result of six puts them as the 5th largest group at the Council. They are the real unknown as no one has had any experience of working with this party before.

A lot will depend on how certain groups act, as in 2009 the Lib Dems put themselves straight into opposition. I very much doubt they will do this again. Meaning they are more than likely to be part of the new administration just on numbers alone. The next question if this happens is who with? Conservatives? Yes, they are both in a coalition Government, but this is local politics and I really cannot see this happening. If it did, I would expect to see mass defections from both groups. They might get along in Westminster, but this is not Westminster and things are very different at the local level.

How about Lib Dems, Labour and MK joining together and forming an administration? Again I doubt this it will happen, as I cannot see Labour and the Lib Dems working together in a formal way with a General Election only two years away. More to the point, it will not give them the numbers guaranteed of getting a Leader elected.

That leaves the possibility of a LD/Indi or a Indi/Con coalition. This will also be an interesting marriage as the Independents are a mixed bag. Some, like myself have never been in a political group, others have been members of political parties, and have been elected as such.

I should say there is one other option, with that being a rainbow administration with the Cabinet being made up of all parties and groups. Though can you really see this happening? I cannot. That is why I have left it to the very end. Though it is politics and history will tell you anything can happen!

One thing is for sure, it will be an interesting few weeks of offer and counter offers until an administration is formed. Only once this is done, the new Council can find its feet, and get on with its job of serving the people by delivering services. And do not forget the council will be run on a new structure than no one has ever worked under!