Shared Service Takes a Torpedo From Finance Portfolio Holder

They say a week is a long time in politics, the way things are going at Cornwall Council it probably feels like a lifetime. Today, Jim Currie, Cabinet Member (and Deputy Leader of Cornwall Council) that includes finance, torpedoed the already badly damaged ship that is the Strategic Partnership for Support Services (shared services) with a withering email sent to all Councillors.

With so much at stake, the email could not be more perfectly timed. With RCHT meeting today to decide if they would join the partnership and Tuesday’s possible release of the Invite to Tender the support services ship looked, despite coming under intensive fire from Councillors, the public, Unions and the media to be limping into the port that is privatisation. Councillor Currie, has struck with devastating effort worthy of someone from the Silent Service.

In the email Jim Currie gives his critique of the proposals:

The JV process has been described as a year and a half of smoke and mirrors (and secrecy) sorting out £22m a year contract followed by a smash and grab raid of a few weeks imposing a £436 million a year contract for procurement. I would agree with this description since I was on leave when it happened.

The correct procedure to challenge the Cabinet decision on JV was a call-in by Scrutiny. Indeed there are 7 situations that can each trigger a call-in and this decision had six of them. Unfortunately the Single Issue Panel consisted of the main players from Scrutiny who were baulked by competitive dialogue secrecy and the speed of the procurement extension to the contract. The reports to Cabinet were excellent but done in record time. Procurement which is 95% of the Equity was not identified.

The promise of jobs in six to seven years time indeed may well happen. Unfortunately, information freely available to all members would indicate a distinct possibility that each job could cost the Cornish taxpayer one million pounds. At that rate the jobs will continue to happen so long as members push up Council Tax as their main involvement.

Not a jury in the land would endorse the annual delegation of twice the size of all Council Tax revenue being described as a purely executive (Cabinet) function.

The Competitive Dialogue process has been backed up by secrecy, loads of anecdotal comments including filibuster and threats of legal action but no real evidence. Unfortunately it takes ages to filter out the direction of travel so members are getting a kicking if they venture into the minefield.

As you can read, Jim Currie does not mince his words in the e-mail, more so as Jim probably knows most about the proposals than 90% of the Council.

What will the Leadership do now? Will they man the lifeboats and let the shared services venture sink beneath the waves to an inglorious end, ablaze? Let’s hope so, for the good of Cornwall.


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