Cornwall shared services plan put on hold to allow full debate
Councillors in Cornwall have voted overwhelmingly to put the brakes on a multi-million deal with telecom giant BT to jointly run services.
The day-long meeting at County Hall, Truro, was calm in comparison to scenes played out in the chamber last week.
Former council leader, Alec Robertson lost his crown while attempting to push through the deal with BT.
In a vote of no confidence he was deposed and replaced by fellow Tory, Jim Currie.
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Yesterday, councillors voted 93 in favour of not leaping to the final tender stage until the deal had been debated and approved by a meeting of the full council.
It went further in calling for chief executive, Kevin Lavery to investigate alternative methods of making savings and generating income.
No one voted against the motion – seven abstained.
Mr Currie, who also revealed his Cabinet reshuffle at the meeting, told the chamber he would be taking personal responsibility for shared services.
He said: "I have a healthy scepticism about this exercise. I intend to co-ordinate those for and against properly.
"For those who have doubts I think their doubts have not been properly articulated or forensically looked at.
"I am now in a position to facilitate that."
The motion also called for the matter to be brought back before full council at a future meeting.
However, no indication of when that might be was given, but councillors accepted it was a "matter of urgency".
Councillors were told the BT deal was on the table until March next year.
The controversy that saw Mr Robertson lose his position involved plans to set up a joint venture with a private firm to run key services such as benefits administration and personnel and library services.
A report to the council previously claimed the joint venture contract would save at least £2.5m a year.
In August the cabinet ignored the will of the council by forging ahead with plans to sign a contract with a private firm.
BT and US giant CSC threw their respective hats into the ring, only for the latter to withdraw following Mr Robertson's unceremonious departure.
Before the vote was taken yesterday councillors revealed which way they were likely to vote if, and when crunch-time comes. Councillor Andrew Wallis put the motion forward to stall the process after collecting more than 6,000 signatures from the public opposing the deal.
Referring to the cabinet ignoring the wider council over the plan, he said: "This petition was started because people were so enraged the democratic vote was so quickly ignored."
Councillor Steve Double, said the authority already spent millions a year with private companies and Cornwall would suffer if the BT deal failed.
He said: "This council spends £450 million a year with the private sector and I am sure those companies make a profit.
"Why all of a sudden are we afraid of companies making a profit?"