Councillors at Cornwall Council have complained they learn about internal changes and other important matters from the press rather than being told first.

At a meeting of the council’s constitution and governance committee today (Tuesday, September 5) Cllr Hilary Frank was concerned about how members outside the cabinet found out about a recent reshuffle when councillors Connor Donnithorne and Richard Pears swapped portfolio roles as heads of transport and customer services.

She said: “The leader (Cllr Linda Taylor) has every right to change portfolio leaders mid-term but she should also respect the other members of the council and inform us personally rather than let us know through a media release from a Cornwall Council officer.”

Cllr Frank was told that if there are any mid-term changes Monitoring Officer Henry Gordon-Lewis has to send out an all-members briefing. Cllr Mike Thomas asked if that meant before a media release. His question was greeted by laughter from other members.

“No, it doesn’t,” replied Mr Gordon-Lennox, “but the point’s taken. The expectation is that members are informed dreckly and that will happen.” Members jokingly teased the senior officer about his use of the Cornish word.

Cllr Thomas said he was not happy with that and there should be some structure for releasing such information to councillors. He suggested there should be ‘best practice’ of communicating any changes before the information becomes a media release.

He added: “I think many members have been in situations in the last two to six years where they have been hearing things about Cornwall Council either through CornwallLive or the BBC occasionally rather than through the actual structure of Cornwall Council. (There’s) a sense of feeling we’re the last to know as members what’s happening in the council we’re elected to be participants of.”

Cllr Peter Perry agreed and said it was “bad management”. Mr Gordon-Lennox argued it was “semantics” but said it would have been courteous for members to have been sent an email ahead of the council press release going out.

Referring to the Conservative Party’s parliamentary candidate for the Camborne and Redruth seat Cllr Connor Donnithorne’s move from portfolio holder for transport, in which he has faced criticism over car parking tariff increases, Mebyon Kernow’s Dick Cole said: “I won’t make any comment about the leader’s decision to throw a councillor under the bus to protect a parliamentary candidate from bad publicity.

“But to be fair to the authority, and I’m not just talking about this administration but past administrations too, sometimes you find out things well in advance and sometimes you don’t. It’s haphazard at times but I think that’s because of the size of the authority.”