Politicians must take the lead in creating 'One Cornwall'
Independent Cornwall Councillor Bert Biscoe's recent comment about the performance of Cornwall Council and its flawed executive cabinet structure was one of the most informative I have read about Cornwall's system of local government. The single voice, the "One Cornwall" that the unitary authority created out of the former county and six borough and district councils is surely worth striving for because it could in time evolve through "localism" into a devolved form of government that many would like to see. As Cllr Biscoe rightly points out it won't happen if the council is torn apart by political party rivalry. Conservative council leader Alec Robertson has been accused by his Liberal Democrat opponents of being undemocratic over the outsourcing of some council support employment to a private sector partnership. But the decision-making process, the executive cabinet that took it, was imposed on us by Cornwall's Liberal Democrats. I can remember a letter, written to The Times by North Cornwall's leader Graham Facks-Martin MBE warning about the undemocratic nature of "One Cornwall", and showing a copy to a Labour government minister who told me in no uncertain terms that the unitary authority was definitely going ahead because Cornwall's six MPs – all of them Liberal Democrats – were demanding it. It must have come as a crushing blow to the Liberal Democrats that a county they virtually treated as their personal property returned the Conservatives as the largest party at the first unitary council election and their spoilt brat stance ever since, most notably their unprincipled opposition to the St Dennis waste incinerator that they themselves selected when they controlled the former county council waste authority, must have contributed to the air of crisis in County Hall. I don't think voters want this irresponsible party political bickering, Bert Biscoe is right. Obviously Cornwall Council staff and their trade union will do everything they can to prevent the cost-cutting privatisation from going ahead but elected councillors have a greater responsibility to Council Tax payers who will have to foot higher tax bills if council employment cost savings aren't made. A return to a committee system of governance may be a solution by involving councillors from all political parties in the debates but unlike the national coalition government the Liberal Democrats have deliberately excluded themselves from Cornwall Council's executive cabinet and in a fit of pique refused to work with the Conservatives. With that negative mind-set what Cllr Biscoe recommends – returning to committee governance – may not change anything. It's all rather depressing and to think the same party politicians are about to ask us to elect their nominees on November 5 to become police commissioner.
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