The Most Surreal Day at Cornwall Council

I have to say, the 16th October 2012; will be one of those days you long remember.  A no-confidence vote to remove the Cabinet Leader was debated. It had all the hallmarks of being explosive, full of twists and turns with some strange outcomes. And it did not disappoint!

A no-confidence motion is not common and it is less common for one to be successful. Firstly for it to be accepted it needs 41 signatures. So there has to be a lot of common ground for one to meet this threshold. Even if it meets this threshold, it rarely is successful.

I was hoping the debate today was going to be short, and to the point. I even stood up and said this, as I felt a long and drawn-out debate was not the best course of action for the Council. That was not supported and during the next two and a bit hours various Councillors stood up to give their view on the motion. At one stage security had to be called because one Councillor who wanted to make a certain point refused to sit down when the Chairman told them to, after it went beyond ‘good debate’. In the end order was restored and apologies given.

Finally a vote was indeed taken by way of a ballot. It was always going to be close, but it was not as close as imagined. The vote was 63 for and 49 against the no-confidence motion, a majority of 14. No one enjoys doings this, but the lesson that has to be learnt from this is listen and respect the greater membership of the Council. Ignoring that view, you do so at your peril.

The next job for the Council was to elect a new Cabinet Leader and the Council was adjourned to allow the various groups to put forward a candidate, or an individual to stake their claim. After a few requests for extra time to carry on with the discussion the Council reconvened for the final showdown. A boy it was a showdown!

At first Armand Toms was the preferred candidate for the Conservatives and the majority of Independents. Then instead of Armand, Neil Burden was put up. This then lead to Jim Currie (Con) being nominated by Bob Egerton (Ind) and Ruth Lewarne (LD). That was one hell of an unholy alliance. Each candidate was then given five minutes to outline why they should be Leader. It was on those speeches the Leadership was really decided.

This time the vote was really close. Jim Currie won it by three votes (49/46) and was duly elected the new Cabinet Leader. Then four of the current Cabinet Councillors made public announcements they would with immediate effect stand down. They were Councillors Double, Ridgers, German and Hicks. I am not sure who will replace them, as they will have to be discussed and decided in the coming days.

Who would have thought a Leader ousted, a new Conservative Cabinet Leader voted in power by Lib Dems, Meybon Kernow and a handful of Indi’s with an Indi, supported by Conservatives and Indi’s. That has to be a first in local government!

Lastly, for those with a liking for Social Media, the webcast attracted 4466 viewers at the peak and in the Twitter world, the debate was trending (most talked about) number three in the UK. That’s democracy to your front room.

 

The Day Before Tomorrow

Everything is heading for one almighty collision tomorrow (16th October) when the entire council meets to either support the no-confidence motion, and remove the current leader, or stick with him. The motion has not just come about from the Shared Services (JV) dealings, but for many the JV was the final straw for back bencher’s.

It will not surprise people, but the current Cabinet have been sending e-mails to all Councillors in what looks to be an orchestrated plan to ‘re-assure’ back bencher’s.  So far I have received emails from Councillor’s Ridgers, Rule, Hicks and German. They are all stating the same that the JV is the best thing since sliced bread, but if the council chooses to vote against the JV on the 23rd, they will respect that vote. Funny how they have changed their minds from the last Council meeting!

This massive change of heart from the previous stance is nothing more than a delaying tactic to save their and the current Cabinet Leaders position. As if the vote on the Leader’s position is carried, their jobs are in no way guaranteed. Though, no one is saying the other Cabinet Members will be removed. This seems to come from the Cabinet Members themselves, and not those who have signed the motion, or who will vote to remove the Leader. It is more like another scare tactic.

I am sure there will be lots of arm twisting  going on tonight to make sure the Leader has support. Though I am hearing the support list is rapidly thinning. Threats rarely work, and just shows how desperate people are.

The meeting will be webcast as well. The link for the webcast is HERE

Jim Currie Resigns from Cornwall Council Cabinet

It is Tuesday, and I did say it was going to get interesting in the lead up to the no-confidence vote. The latest development is Jim Currie has resigned from the Cabinet. This is really a huge development as Jim is also the Deputy Leader of Cornwall Council.

In his letter to Alec Robertson:

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

The third paragraph in Jim’s letter is really damaging, as it strengthens the case after the announcement on Monday is nothing more than a ruse to survive the 16th, then still press on with the JV. You can not forget Jim has been in the inter-circle of the Cabinet, and was the Portfolio Holder for Finance so would know more than most.

Jumped before pushed? I do not think so, as I think the resignation is perfectly timed for the no-confidence vote on the 16th. I think now, there is only one possible replacement candidate for the no-confidence vote.

Cornwall Council: And it’s only Monday

After this morning ‘announcement’  from the Leader saying he will respect the Council’s decision if it chooses (again) to vote against the Shared Services proposal on the 23rd, then it will not go ahead.

This announcement was later clarified in an email to Councillors seven hours later. In that email, it goes on to stay how wonderful Shared Services is blah, blah, blah. However, it is a paragraph in that message that stood-out. This is:

“We will be holding confidential briefings prior to the Council debate to provide all Members with detailed information about the two offers.  I hope that as many Members as possible will attend these session so they can make an informed decision about whether we should go ahead with the proposal.”

It stood out because firstly,  this ‘briefing’ will take place after the no-confidence onset for the 16th. I believe the 18th is earmarked for that briefing. Two days after the no-confidence debate.

Secondly, if the Leader is removed, the odds-on favourite to replace Councillor Robertson has said he will stop the Shared Services proposals. So why would you need a briefing for something that is not going to happen? Quite simply, you do not. Or is the Leader so confident in surviving the no-confidence motion that he is actually planning for the future!

I indicated this morning about this sudden announcement could be a ruse. The more I am hearing, the more I am coming to that conclusion it is a ruse to distract people from the 16th. I am not the only one that has come to that conclusion because many of my fellow Councillors samilar today.

I smell a……….

Lastly, It is now claimed the announcement is not a U-turn, but what then is that smell of tire-rubber?

 

Cornwall Council Leader does a U-turn on Shared Services

Wow, talk about starting Monday morning with a bang. I knew it was going to get interesting in and around County Hall, but this morning massive U-turn on the privatisation plan is quite a surprise. Though I hear it has come from not being able to guarantee his own groups full support on the 16th.

The announcement by the Leader on Radio Cornwall that if the majority of the Council are still against Shared Services on the 23rd, then it will be dropped. That is one hell of a U-turn. I am though disappointed the Leader announced this on live radio before informing Cornwall Councillors first. But good for Radio Cornwall for getting the scoop on this.

So what now? Is the offer from the Leader just a ruse to stay in power post the 16th? Is he hoping that he can then persuade enough Councillors to support the Shared Services proposals, and therefore still sell-off great swaths of the council to a private company? As the last time the council had a say, though it was then ignored, the council voted not to support shared services. So what has changed? Or has the Leader realised Councillors and the public do not support the idea of shared services.

The change of heart is at odds with one of the Leader’s messages on this subject on the 25th Sept:

In this case the Cabinet believes we have made the right decision. Nothing has been raised, either during the Council debate, or since, that alters that belief.

with no new information forthcoming on either why we shouldn’t progress with the plan to form a strategic partnership or a realistic alternative that enables the Council to preserve jobs and services is not a legally valid reason to alter a properly made Cabinet decision – even if we wanted to.

What has happened to change the Leaders mind? After all he said they made the “right decision” and could not change that decision “even if we wanted to”.

Furthermore, in today’s interview on Radio Cornwall, the Leader did say the U-turn was also because of the Petition. I welcome this because the public have spoken, and should be listen to. However, it raises questions on this statement by the Leader on the 17th September:

“and then employing tactics such as the petition, actually undermines democracy”

Is being in power and the baubles that come with the position more important? I am sure people will come to their own conclusions on this matter. As it does seem very strange with a no-confidence motion looming there is a sudden, nay massive, change of heart direction.

And it is only Monday!

 

No Confidence Motion on Leader of Cornwall Council

Things at Cornwall Council are likely to get very interesting in the next week or so. The reason for this is 41 Cornwall Councillors have put their name to a no-confidence motion on the Leader of Cornwall Council.

Now this has been submitted, an emergency council meeting will take place on the 16th October at New County Hall, starting at 10 am. It will be simply a yes or no vote. If the vote goes against the leader, then he is automatically removed as leader, and a new leader has to be in place by the end of the day. It will then be up to the new leader to pick his cabinet.

That does not mean the cabinet will automatically change, as it could stay the same. I will imagine a lot of arm twisting and talks in quiet corners will be taking place in the next few days.