Council leader responds to deputy's resignation over privatisation push
10:29am Thursday 11th October 2012 in News
The leader of Cornwall Council has responded to his deputy, who resigned over the authority's push to privatise a raft of services.
Alec Robertson, said he appreciated that the Jim Currie's resignation was "not personal" and that he had never harboured ill feeling towards him.
Adding that he had "always respected the fact that the joint venture proposal is a matter of strongly held principle."
Mr Robertson said: "Although you were clearly out of step with the rest of the Cabinet, I like many others, have admired your customary fortitude. I was, therefore, disappointed to first learn of your resignation from Radio Cornwall. We could have spoken of this on numerous occasions in recent days but I am also aware that this would not have been easy, given our close and successful working relationship over the past seven and a half years.
"I can assure you that my oft repeated statement that the Cabinet will respect the vote of the full council on 23 October, is unequivocal and is shared by all Cabinet Members regardless of our previously expressed support for the Joint Venture.
"As I have already said, it would be futile to progress a proposal if it is opposed by the majority of the Council because, as has been seen in other partnerships around the country, such relationships have little prospect of success if both parties are not committed. Obviously, this would be a material consideration which the Cabinet would be able to take into account in its legal and constitutional decision making.
Mr Robertson said he failed to see what was ambiguous about his previous statement that “if a majority of the Members present at the debate vote against the proposal, then it will not go ahead”
His response states: "We have discussed, at length, your views on the risks and scale of the proposal and the ability of the Council to ensure adequate control and democratic accountability in it. We clearly have varying levels of risk aversion and my experience outside the public sector, in common with the rest of the Cabinet Members, gives us a different perspective on the private business sector.
"We also have a different view on the future prospects for local government finance which I, again in common with the rest of the Cabinet, expect to be more challenging than you have stated in our previous discussions. In fact, much of the debate around the Joint Venture proposal seems to me to indicate a clash of cultures between those who seem to think that life is tough now but eventually things will return to ‘normal’ and those of us who recognise that we must actually adapt to the ‘new normal’.
"We can only do this by being brave, radical, innovative and much more businesslike and that means taking more calculated and managed risks and working faster than in the past. The alternative is an inevitable decline in services as our resources reduce further while demands on them increase and I know we are both passionate about protecting services – particularly for our most vulnerable residents.
"No-one knows better than you that this administration, in the short time that we have been together, has achieved an enviable and envied record of protecting services from the impact of financial cuts, unprecedented in a lifetime. We have done this by being proactive, going early, staying one step ahead and addressing our challenges before the crisis hits. In the Cabinet’s strongly held view, the Joint Venture proposal is an important step in that direction as well as a great opportunity to strengthen Cornwall’s resilience in the face of the coming storm.
"Jim, I am sorry that this next step on the journey is a step too far for you but I will always be grateful for all you have done in supporting me as a Cabinet Member and as my deputy over the past three and a half years. You have done a great job of covering my 6 o’clock and I suspect more daggers will find their way through without you there to cover my back."