You can fool some of the people all the time…
Council’s have a habit of being accused of being too secretive, even though those within the council environment sell the message of being ‘open and transparent’. If we were talking about a private company then it is up to the board or whoever owns the company to say how the company is run and its financial arrangement, or keep them secret. However, a council is not private, and any money and its use is of public interest. And rightly so.
The Stadium for Cornwall was always going to be, and is an emotive subject; no matter if you want to see it built, or think it is a folly. I have closely watched the proceedings and have been either directly involved via the Strategic Planning Committee (proposed approval for outlining permission), or indirectly as a back-bencher of Cornwall Council. I have often wondered how the PR around this project has been poor so many times.
Restriction of information under the guise of commercial sensitivity is one of the biggest mistakes the council is making. You might understand the need for commercial sensitivity on subjects like a contract to offer a service or a bid process, but when there is a potential of taxpayers money being used and the cost is already well documented, you should be straight with the public. No matter if it is £10 or £10m.
The public is not stupid and if a plan is explained in a clear and detailed way, that public will be able to make a rational decision. You might not like the decision, but that decision will have been made on fact and understanding. Everyone knows the stadium will cost £15.2m for a 10,000 seat stadium and there are three key partners which have formed a new company to deliver this project. Having read the Cornwall Council scrutiny document three times, I feel there is only one or two details that I believe fall into any kind of label of ‘commercial sensitivity’ in the whole document. The rest of the information in the document should be in the public domain. Even North Korea would have the difficulty in claiming commercial sensitivity to most of this document.
The public is told in a (clarification) press-statement issued early Monday evening: “the council would like to make it clear that there has been no proposal to use council tax payers’ money to fund the stadium’s construction”. I was most surprised to see the use of the word construction. I would have thought it had been better to have used the words “no tax payers money would be used in the project other than that which has already been spent” (£120k and change). As the word construction could lead to further confusion and misunderstanding.
I really feel if Cornwall Council wants people to understand this project, and maybe support it (or not), then tell the whole story. If truth be told I am uncomfortable with a lot of what being said to date, and the restriction of information that should be in the public domain.
As a saying goes “You can fool some of the people all the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time”.