Cornwall councillors claim Cabinet 'arrogant' on public services plan
CORNWALL councillors pledged to continue to fight plans to privatise key services, hitting out at the "arrogance" of the ruling Cabinet for ignoring a full council vote against the project.
Those leading the charge to halt plans for the council to form a partnership with a private firm to provide services such as libraries and housing benefit cited a lack of detail about the scheme and feared it leading to large-scale job losses and cuts in services.
Two companies – BT and Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) – are bidding for a contract with Cornwall Council worth between £200 million and £800 million.
The new organisation could also provide services for NHS trusts in Cornwall and take on other public services.
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However the plans have faced opposition from unions and councillors who are concerned that targets of saving 20 per cent and creating 500 new jobs are unachievable and accountability for public services could be lost.
Last week 46 council members voted in favour of a motion calling for the council to pull back from the plans, with 29 against. There were 14 abstentions, with 33 absences.
Yet within 24 hours the Cabinet stated it would press ahead with the project.
Councillor Steve Double, Cabinet member responsible for the project, said: "I appreciate that some members remain concerned about the proposal and unfortunately we were unable to share the confidential information which would have helped them to better understand the background to this decision.
"I would, however, like to repeat that we are not privatising Cornwall Council services.
"Under this proposal we will be joining with a private sector company to form a partnership which will then deliver these services, although the responsibility for setting policy and strategy will remain with the council."
"The facts are that entering into this partnership will help us to protect frontline services, create 500 new jobs and reduce costs by at least £5 million a year. This is surely in the best interests of the people of Cornwall."
But Liberal Democrat group leader Jeremy Rowe said: "I am appalled at this latest display of arrogance from the Conservatives at County Hall.
"At the full council meeting more than half of the democratically-elected councillors present voted to stop this privatisation process.
"However a select few tucked away in the top floor bunker in Truro have decided to ignore that clear view from the council and plough on regardless.
"They have no mandate for this outsourcing project. It is a black day for democracy."