Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Petition against privatisation of council services

Councillors opposed to the privatisation of core council functions have posted an on-line petition on Cornwall Council’s website. It includes reference to the motion agreed by councillors at the last Full Council meeting of the authority, which stated:

“In view of its far reaching consequences, including its potential impact on Council governance and elected Member accountability, this Council believes that it is not in the best interests of the people of Cornwall for the Council to enter into the proposed Strategic Partnership for Support Services."

It also notes that the “Cabinet has now indicated that it will continue with the proposal” in spite of the democratic will of the wider Council and calls on people to oppose the privatisation.

I have already signed the petition. Please do the same.

I have also covered this issue in my column in the Cornish Guardian, which will be printed on Friday. It will be as follows:

There is a massive crisis in democracy at Cornwall Council.

On 30th July, the authority’s ten-strong Cabinet voted, in principle, to enter into a multi-million pound “joint venture” project with a large private company.

Grandly described as a “Strategic Partnership for Support Services,” the deal would allow the private sector to deliver a massive range of council services including benefits, council tax, payroll, IT support, libraries and one-stop-shops.

It clearly did not have the backing of the majority of councillors and a motion was tabled to Full Council stating the move was “not in the best interests of the people of Cornwall.”

The motion was tabled by Independent councillor Andrew Wallis, who rightly slammed the lack of democratic accountability in the proposed arrangement and condemned it as “full of risks.” He also urged the Cabinet to “reverse its decision.”

The motion was seconded by Mebyon Kernow councillor Andrew Long who stated that the “evidence” presented to support the “joint venture” was “pure conjecture.” He also rubbished the claims about savings and future job creation as “pie in the sky,” adding that councillors were more likely to see “bacon-clad flying mammals.”

Other councillors lined up to challenge the transfer of staff and huge budgets into a private sector company, which would inevitably result in significant job losses as well as worse terms and conditions for continuing staff.

I am proud that all MK councillors backed the motion and I was extremely heartened that the majority of councillors present at the meeting opposed the privatisation. A total of 46 councillors voted no to the “joint venture;” 29 councillors took the opposing view and there were 14 abstentions.

But I was disgusted when, within hours of the vote, the Conservative leadership of the Council confirmed that it intended to proceed with the “joint venture” proposal anyway.

This is another black day for Cornwall Council and an affront to democracy. It is unbelievable that the leadership of the unitary authority can be so dismissive of the democratic will of the wider Council.

It is important that the rank and file at Cornwall Council, the elected members, the unions, and as many people as possible, continue to oppose this privatisation of so much of the Council’s core activities. And through this newspaper column, I would like to challenge the Conservative-led authority to put its out-sourcing plans on hold.

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