Olympic torch invitation raises 'who's in charge' row at council
A row over who should represent Cornwall Council at the Olympic torch relay ceremony at Land's End spilled over into a full council meeting yesterday.
The disagreement centres over whether the chairman, Pat Harvey, or leader, Alec Robertson, should take precedence in the county's Olympic celebrations.
Concerns had been raised among councillors that the chairman of the council – the authority's civic head – was being "sidelined" in favour of the Coun Robertson, particularly with regards to the torch relay.
Independent Councillor Andrew Wallis tried to resolve the issue by putting it before the full council yesterday.
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He asked the council to recognise the "intent" of the Local Government Act 1972 which sets out that the chairman of the council is the civic head of the authority and is given precedence at civic events. And he called for the council to ensure that the chairman, as the civic head of the council, is "lead and in attendance at all events relating to the Olympic Torch Relay".
Introducing the motion yesterday, Coun Wallis said the chairman's non-political role at functions such as the Olympic Torch events was important, not just for the council, but for the county.
Liberal Democrat Councillor Jeremy Rowe supported the motion, saying there had been a "blurring of the line between the chairman and the leader". He added that it was important to make a distinction between the political leadership of the council and the civic leadership.
Councillor Doris Ansari asked for the motion to be amended to recommend that the council write to the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) asking for any relevant invitations to be sent to the civic head of the council. Coun Ansari, who previously held the role of council chairman herself, said she regretted that the matter had to be raised at all.
"We shouldn't be having this debate," she said. "It's sad that we're having it. This makes us look like spoilt children throwing our toys out of our prams."
The chairman declared a prejudicial interest in the item at the start of the meeting and neither she nor Coun Robertson spoke during the debate.
The council voted in favour of approving the motion, with Coun Ansari's amendment that the authority write to LOCOG.
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