I will start with an apology for the title, as the title, like the debate today was not about handing over a large cheque for £10m plus, but to look into the request by the group behind the stadium for Cornwall Council involvement and the POSSIBILITY of some funding to being available to the group.
For the record, I think the whole stadium issue has been handled badly. Far too many mixed messages have come from the Cabinet and the authority on yes, no, maybe to any kind of funding. This has been further complicated by the political kick-about this project has been subjected to. It has resulted in confusion not just in the council chambers, but also with the public.
What should have happened today is a request (and this could be from any organisation) for finance should be investigated fully, with a business case, and other important information be present to a future full council meeting. That way, a decision could be made on fact. This is important because it would show to outside organisations that Cornwall Council is serious about investing in the future. Sadly, this did not happen today.
Cornwall Council does have a good record of investing in major projects. You might not agree with these, but money has been handed over without a whisper from councillors, or the public. These project include:
- Eden: Over £3.5m in total from Cornwall County Council and Cornwall Council. A few month ago Cornwall Council authorised through the Leader’s Fund a further £100,000 to ‘look into’ green energy;
- St Ives Tate Gallery: Over £4m has been granted/funded in the last few years;
- Heartlands: total of £35m with at least coming £1m coming from Kerrier District Council and £1.4m for the housing on this site from Cornwall Council.
So why has the investigation into the possibility of Cornwall Council part funding the stadium had so much resistance from the elected members of Cornwall Council. From my own investigation and talking to many members of my electorate many do support the investment, but the caveat is no service should be affected if money is found for this project.
The debate on the principle of looking into funding was debated for over two and a half hours, with a vote taken at the end of this debate. It was a close vote, and closer than I expected. In the end 55 Councillors voted against the principle of investigating the possibility of funding, with 46 Councillors voted for. There were seven abstentions.
One of these abstentions was understandable because it was the Chairman who abstained and has at every other meeting of the full council. The Monitoring Officer (chief legal officer) did advise the Cabinet Members they would not be predetermined if they voted on this. However, six of the Cabinet Members (who were present at the time of the vote) abstained. Only three Cabinet members voted. Two voted in favour, and one voted against.
It is a sad state of affairs that six of these Cabinet Members who are the executive members of the council decided to sit on their hands and abstain. I would thought as prominent members and therefore leaders of the council they would have had the courage of voting. It would not have made a difference to the vote, but it would have given a clear message that the Cabinet either supported (or not) this proposal. Abstaining just adds to the confusion this project has suffered with.
Now with the no vote, I am not sure where this leaves the stadium project. Cabinet could ignore the wishes of the council and carry on with the request. However, that would be a difficult position for the Cabinet to be in, as it would risk the wrath of the full council for ignoring the democratic vote.
The vote split by the part is as follows:
- For – 10 Conservatives – 17 Liberal Democrat’s – 13 Independents – 5 Mebyon Kernow – 1 Labour
- Against – 26 Conservatives – 17 Liberal Democrat’s – 12 Independents
- Abstain – 5 Conservatives – 2 Independent (chairman being one of these)
I guess we will have to wait till the dust has settled to see what happens next.