Ousted leader Alec Robertson defends council privatisation
Three months after being ousted as Conservative leader of Cornwall Council, Alec Robertson has spoken out about the vote that lost him his post and his willingness to stand again as leader, if asked, after May's elections.
The former Royal Navy officer said the period around the vote of no confidence had been particularly difficult for him and his family.
He said: "It was a very demanding three and a half years. The fact is we turned a failing council around in a very short time despite unprecedented funding cuts. Cornwall became a high-achieving, award-winning authority, well respected by Government and other councils throughout the country."
Mr Robertson's departure came after he and his Cabinet refused to scrap plans to part-privatise council services.
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But, he said: "Given what we knew at the time, I wouldn't do things differently.
"I eventually took a fall on the strategic partnership issue but I believed then and I believe now it was the right thing for Cornwall and I don't mind taking a fall for something I believe in.
"The JV (joint venture part-privatisation) issue was the trigger but it wasn't just about that issue. This was obviously an opportunity for the opposition to oust a successful Conservative-led administration.
"There were a number of things. There was that political aim but also underlying that was the issue of governance within the council and opposition to the Cabinet system."
Mr Robertson said he would stand for re-election in Helston in May and would consider the leader's position again if asked. "Going back to 2009 (when the unitary authority was formed), I didn't ask for the leadership, I was asked to do it then, I didn't aspire to it. There are elections in May and everything will depend on the outcome."
He rejected suggestions that his style of leadership had been autocratic. "That reflects the Cabinet system we were constitutionally bound to operate within. I was being described as aloof, arrogant, and dictatorial but the people who know me and work with me wouldn't recognise that description."
He added that he and his Cabinet colleagues had introduced "mechanisms" to involve all 123 members.
"The truth is, facing the challenges we did, there were always going to have to be tough decisions made and in the end those decisions fell to the leader and the Cabinet to make.
"That was always going to lead to unpopularity but the important thing was to do the right thing, whether it cost popularity or not, and that has always been my position and that of my Cabinet colleagues."
He felt that the council remained well placed for the future, despite what he described as the "wobble" of the past few months.