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Council privatisation plans could be scrapped
8:30am Thursday 11th October 2012 in Cornwall
PLANS to privatise council services may be scrapped after a shock u-turn by Cornwall Council's leader.
Despite previously insisting the proposals were non-negotiable, Councillor Alec Robertson appears to have changed his mind.
The row has also seen the deputy leader of the council Jim Currie resign, saying: "I could not leave local government with billions of pounds of Cornish Taxpayers money at risk and on my conscience."
In a statement issued this week, Mr Robertson said: “It is vital that Members have all the facts before them when they debate this matter. “Unfortunately the decision not to go into confidential session on 4 September meant that we were unable to provide details of the bids from the two companies.
“The reality is that both companies are offering to deliver even greater savings and create more jobs than was set out in the original prospectus which can only be good news for both the Council and people in Cornwall.
“We will be holding confidential briefings prior to the Council debate to provide Members with further information about the two offers and the work which has been carried out to reduce any potential risks so they can make an informed decision about whether we should go ahead with the proposal.
“The impact of further cuts in our funding means that the status quo is not an option. “If we don't do this we will need to find the savings somewhere else, resulting in a real threat of significant reduction in frontline services in Cornwall.
“I am hopeful that Members will support the Strategic Partnership once they have access to all the facts. However if a majority of the Council decide to vote against the proposal, then it will not go ahead.” The statement differs dramatically to the message put out by the council's leadership after a vote to put the plans on hold was approved by councillors at a full meeting of the authority last month.
The proposals would see the running of services including benefit payments and libraries handed to a private company in a deal worth up to £300 million.
Cabinet members have insisted the deal offers to best future for Cornwall, and that it will save millions for the taxpayer and create new jobs for the Duchy.
However, opponents say the plans are being rushed through without consultation.
Councillor Andrew Wallis has led the campaign to get the proposals placed on hold.
He said: “This is one hell of a U-turn. 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.”
Councillor Roberston's change of direction comes just a week before he faces a vote of no-confidence at an extraordinary meeting of Cornwall Council next Tuesday.
If Mr Robertson loses the vote, he will be immediately removed as council leader.