Secret papers over BT venture
CORNWALL Council chiefs have been accused of treating councillors "like children" after deciding that documents with details of plans to privatise services should be kept secret.
The council's Cabinet was due to meet yesterday to decide whether to issue a tender for BT to take on services including IT and payroll for the council in a new Joint Venture.
Two reports were listed on the agenda with one to be considered in public session and another in closed session. However, the paperwork for the closed session was only to be given to Cabinet members on the day and they had to return the documents at the end of the meeting.
The papers are believed to provide the financial breakdown of the project including potential savings.
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In restricting the paperwork to Cabinet members the other 113 councillors would not be able to see the full details of what the council is potentially signing up to.
The report to Cabinet states: "The accompanying part two report contains confidential and commercial information. These documents will be provided in paper form to Cabinet members. Copies should be returned after the meeting."
Independent councillor Andrew Wallis, who is a vocal critic of the shared services plan, said that he was disappointed by the decision to restrict information but not surprised.
He said: "I went to the single issue panel on the shared services last week and there were papers there that we were given but had to return at the end.
"They are treating us like children but they are so worried about that information getting out they want to limit who gets to see it.
"Every officer in the building can have access to these documents but the elected members are not allowed to see them.
"Hopefully the figures will come out so that people can know exactly what the council is signing up to."
The shared services project was slimmed down after objections were raised to the number of services being transferred.
Libraries, benefits and procurement have now been removed with the focus on back office functions such as IT and payroll as well as telehealth services.
The changes have led to Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust pulling out from the project, although other health organisations are still involved.