Thursday, 20 December 2012

At least fifty things in local govt Pickles is clueless about


Yesterday as a precursor to yet more cuts being made to local government funding, Eric Pickle's released his  "50 ways to save: Examples of sensible savings in local government" and its not too bad there are some good suggestions. A lot of it is straight from the para-Tory Taxpayer's Alliance, I'm not saying its all wrong. Things like cutting the top earners in local government, employing less consultants, great ideas and none of them are all together bad. But what is really striking is that of 50 suggestions nearly all of them are predominantly administrative 'sharing back off office functions', 'hot desking', 'less management training'. Which is all well and good but offers no advice on essential frontline services. Why the government who is after all in charge, has taken over 2 years to merely suggest these things is beyond me? I hate to tell Pickles etc their jobs, but there's a thing called parliament, if you introduce a bill, it passes it then becomes law and then with these laws you can enact change (just a thought Eric).

As much as I jest, there is a definite theme here the government has little real idea of the function of local government and what it takes to run it, which is why they have not passed legislation or come up with suggestions any sooner. Even Pickle's Fifty Shades of Matthew Sinclair suggests little thought has really gone in to the suggestions, millions slashed from budgets again and the help is 15 pages, 5188 words and although there may be fifty suggestions they are all hopelessly vague and not applicable to all authorities. Most notable in the piece is what is not said, nowhere does the document add up how much savings could be made by the proposals, not averaged or estimated, nothing, just vague rhetoric. The truth is all of these proposals would not save enough to ensure front line services in the face of drastic cuts to local government budgets.

There are many things not even mentioned in the document the key features and services of local government on the ground the ones that will be hit most (again) by Pickle's. For example how with falling budgets, rising costs and a rising population can authorities such as Cornwall Council:

Run a modern and efficient Fire and Rescue service increasing becoming specialised in dealing with road traffic accidents, boat and ship fires and dealing with flooding as well as the traditional fire fighting and fire prevention?

How can a modern school system be maintained, how can administrative costs make up for paying teachers, buying resources, building schools and maintaining them?

With more cars on the road year on year how can Cornwall Council's highways department maintain a safe and efficient road network for Cornwall without badly kept roads and more potholes everywhere?

How can we have decent Social Services providing care to the most vulnerable in society if the money to fund them is increasingly withheld by central government? How do we deal with an ageing population without the money to care for them?

How can Cornwall Council pay it's share of the police service funding?

These are merely five things, I have no doubt there is more than fifty not mentioned by Pickle's in his pseudo- advice for local government. I find this government overwhelming disappointing as time goes on, the mantra of cuts, and the myth they can be found through wastage and overspending alone, is a reality everyone but those in the corridors of power is waking up to. It is deplorable that the majority of work by Pickle's department is cuts, slashing budgets left, right and center and the only advice for dealing with them is under 6 thousand words. A document that does in no way identify clearly how these savings should be made, what stands to be lost and gained in terms of service and how much could be saved if they were all implemented. Frankly pathetic.

If you're interested the document is here 50 ways to save


















Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Cornish national identity statistics in the 2011 census

Just had a quick look at the newly released census statistics from last year, as many people know Cornish as a national identity was an option although a write in one rather than a tick box.

Headline figures for Cornwall and those identifying as Cornish are:
52,793 people identified as Cornish only.
5,185 Cornish and British.
15,242 Cornish and another identity e.g. English, Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish (with or without British).
(total 73,220)
459,053 No Cornish identity.

The total for England, Wales and Cornwall was:
59,456 Cornish only.
6,261 Cornish and British.
17,782 Cornish and another identity.
(total 83,499)

It's hard to know what to make of these statistics, Cornish identity still lacks a tickbox and studies and research show that without a tickbox and having to write in (if respondents are aware they can). Results are always lower. Take Wales and the Welsh for example and the huge leap from the numbers identifying as Welsh in the 2001 census and the numbers now. 14% in 2001, around two thirds in total gave Welsh or Welsh and another option last year. Time for the tickbox next time for the Cornish people, so we can actually have accurate figures to look over.

That aside its interesting to note that the total Cornish identity respondents in 2001 was 37,500 there are now 83,499 people responding as having Cornish identity. Both conducted of course without a tickbox option. Is that a change in attitudes? Has the trend in increasing statistical visibility of the Cornish e.g. PLASC translated in the census? or has the Cornish population more than doubled in the last ten years, lots of things to puzzle over...

Link National identity local authorities


Monday, 10 December 2012

Needs of the people should be at the forefront of politics

I was struck reading Dick Cole's latest piece (link here) how refreshing it was to see putting the needs of people first, and it depressed me to how political discourse in the UK seldom seems to broach the subject of need or morality. From the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats and even from the Labour leadership we hear time and again about 'balancing the books', 'reducing the deficit', 'streamlining' and the like. It is rare to hear politicians talking of need, what people need, what we can do to make people's lives better how we can make a better society for the people. It's lamentable that Westminster seems to be filled with accountants constantly arguing over numbers, balances, debts, deficit. Morality seems a far removed concept from the idealism and energy that built institutions like the NHS. It inspires me to be a member of a party like Mebyon Kernow whose leader draws inspiration not just from the Cornish radical tradition including people like Emily Hobhouse and William Lovett but also the wider tradition like the Beveridge Report.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

On the campaign trail with John Gillingham

On thursday, the voters of the Gwinear- Gwithian and St Erth division will go the polls for this last Cornwall Council by election before the elections next year. It will no doubt be an interesting contest with a grand total of 7 hopefuls on the ballot paper (Mebyon Kernow, Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Labour and 3 Independents). This will be the 6th by election since the last elections in 2009.

It's an interesting contest for Mebyon Kernow, we did not stand in the division in the last elections and we have obviously have a lot of work to do to explain to voters who we are and what we stand for. To be brutally honest with this in mind and the fact that this is John's first time running in an election I really wasn't that hopeful that we would do that well. However after canvassing with John on the doorstep in places like Gwithian, Upton Towans, Carnhell Green, Connor Downs and Reawla I have been struck at how well we are regarded. Perhaps I have listened to our critics too much, with the accusations that we lack widespread support. Because actually on the doorstep talking to voters, the opposite was true people were aware of who we are and the work of our councilors and they were very keen to learn more about our policies. A lot of people are looking for a fresh alternative in politics to put their patch and Cornwall itself first. Not everyone by a long chalk, but certainly a very encouraging reaction as was the number of people who said they would vote MK. I think this is a lot to do with the raised profile of the party and the increasing voice we have in large part to due to our 6 Cornwall Councillors. Loveday Jenkin's emphatic electoral victory in the adjacent division of Wendron last year chief among them.

Obviously there are 2 constituent parts to any election, the banner they stand under and the individual themselves. John Gillingham is a strong candidate, if he works half as hard and talks to half the people of the area as he has in this election campaign, he would be an exceptional councilor. Unlike many of the candidates in this and other elections, John is very young in comparison. People seem to warm to this fact, the days when being a councilor was a part time hobby or for retired people to pass the time are long past. As Loveday Jenkin told the MK Conference the party and Cornwall Council needs young dedicated, energetic full time councilors. People like John who are willing to work full time, to champion their area and vote in the big debates. He understands the needs of people, finding a decent job and affordable accommodation is not a sad tale John has heard of, but sadly like many people of his generation that's his life.

I wish John Gillingham the best of luck at the polls on thursday, I think he has every chance of winning and he should be proud of the campaign he has run. If you live in the are and you're interested in voting for John - please do :) - or want to learn more about what he stands for and how he stack up against the other candidates in the by election. There's a transcript of the election debate between all the candidates held last thursday in Gwinear here.

Cornwall Council privatisation plan just won't die

The widely discredited unpopular Joint Venture for Shared Services between British Telecom and Cornwall Council refuses to go away. Despite the wishes of Councillors, the thousands who signed the petition  and the fact the old council leader losing his job over supporting the scheme it is still being promoted by the authority.

Today the Cornwall Business Partnership wrote to the council publicly backing the BT scheme on This is Cornwall. This should of course come of no great surprise BT is one of the partners of the Cornwall Business Partnership and surprise surprise so is Serco in the guise of Peninsula Enterprise.
The question is yet again asked, will the views of the public and elected Councillors come first or will big business and those seeking lucrative outsourcing contracts and public money have the final say? If the Conservatives really want this scheme, they should stand on that platform next May in the election, thus canvassing the support of the Cornish taxpayer rather than relying on the counsel of Kevin Lavery and his former employers BT and Serco.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Some reflections on the Mebyon Kernow conference and the future


Me at the #MKconf

First and foremost I really enjoyed the day and I think it was a great event. This is only my third party conference and I definitely think it was the best yet. I much preferred the venue and the main chamber of Lys Kernow it obviously has a lot more significance especially looking forward to next years Cornwall Council (and town and parish council) elections. This is an exciting time for the party, feelings are running high and there is a real sense of positivism for a number of good reasons. But there are also a number of great challenges and a lot of hard work facing the party, in next years Cornwall Council and town and parish elections, the European elections the year after and the general election the year after that.

There is lots of coverage by party members of the conference speeches etc rather than post loads of links it's probably easier to have a browse on the Mebyon Kernow facebook page. I did suffice to say enjoy all of the speeches and it is easy to see why all of the MK spokespeople that day have been elected, they speak with confidence, passion and I found them all insightful and inspiring. That's exactly what the party needed to be inspired and as a party we need to be inspirational.

The challenges facing the party in next years elections are great but also so are the opportunities. I think there is a good reason that there is a growing confidence in the party, we have a bigger profile than we've ever had, we've got more councillors than we've ever had. But to really make a difference in Cornish politics to really get our policies on the agenda we need to do better than we have done before. Of all the speeches I think Loveday's spoke to me most, as she explained there is a growing awareness of Cornish identity, people are thinking about it and talking about it more but a she rightly pointed out those conversations need to be had in the corridors of power not just in the pubs and living rooms of Kernow. In short it needs to be Mebyon Kernow's duty to reach out to these people, to get people that want change involved in politics.

It's not just a growing sense of Cornish identity and a growing pride in Cornwall that this applies to, its fundamentally policy too. I find myself time and time again talking to people and finding myself agreeing with them about the state of the housing market about the scandal of second homes, about the state of the economy and employment in Cornwall, about the need to move up country to find decent work and a whole host of other things. There are a lot of people that feel disillusioned with politics and aspects of society in Cornwall and I feel the same, like many others I grew up without a bright future the industry of our forebears gone (the factories my grandparents worked in have either been skat down and are now houses or lie derelict, my fathers fishing boat sold on) I felt that sense of despair the grim thought that the future held minimum wage jobs and dingy bedsits.

We need to show to people that we offer a solution to this problem, we need to engage with young people like I was, in fact -not so young- people like I am. To show that people like me joined Mebyon Kernow and got involved in politics because they want change, because they want a better Cornwall. We need as a party to demonstrate that we alone present a challenge to the status quo, that we have fresh ideas to inject into the stale policies we've seen over successive council administrations in Cornwall. The other great challenge is of course voter apathy, lots of people that feel the way we do have disengaged with politics, they don't see the point in voting. This is the great challenge for parties like MK that believe in democracy. If we can demonstrate to the electorate that we offer something different that its not the same old Westminster consensus of centralisation and neo liberal economics, then perhaps we can turn around MK's fortunes.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

St Ives Conservatives unwilling to defend their own administrations record.

A Conservative leaflet in West Cornwall reveals how the Tories do not want people to view them on their own Council's record. Normally political leaflets highlight the work of the party, how they have made an area better and ultimately why they should be voted back again. Unable to find justifications for the Tory led administration on Cornwall Council the St Ives Conservatives have instead disowned their own parties policies and neglected to mention failures. Now we are supposed to believe that they are for lower parking charges, that they want housing developments only where necessary, that infrastructure spending in West Cornwall has a proud record and that they are the champions of small business. 

In a leaflet for the Police Commissioner elections, the local branch of the Conservatives have used some of the back to highlight some of their Councillors, no doubt in an attempt to raise their profiles. On the one hand they are for low parking and development, in sharp contradiction to Tory policy running the council, these Councillors are on the side of the public on both issues. 


The Tories argue for lower parking charges, yet Tory policy on Cornwall Council has been to make money out of parking and this part of Cornwall disproportionally. I am unaware of Councillor Harding's campaigning and successes on the issue of parking, this really is news to me. Certainly if I was advising the Conservatives I would do anything but mention parking and do my utmost to distract people from the Tories poor record in this area.

They are also on the side of small businesses as well, no justification for this, thus none given on the leaflet. Despite the massive importance to the Cornish economy of small businesses Cornwall Council lacks any kind of small business policy or incentives or pretty much anything specific.

Apparently Cornwall Council has "created outstanding opportunities for major building and infrastructure developments" the examples given are Helston, (presumably Sainsbury's and the Tesco extension not a great deal to do with Cornwall Council) and Hayle, which is not part of this constituency.  This is presumably highlighting the building works around the North Quay, which were part of the Wavehub project (which still lies woefully unused on the seabed thanks to the Tory led government's inaction). Quizzically this section ends "Many of these resulting in much needed long term employment" many here meaning jobs in 2 new supermarkets. They neglect to mention of course the failures of this council administration to find consensus to get harbour improvements in Penzance and see the scheme through before the Conservative led government pulled the funding. So infrastructure and major building in the St Ives constituency is simply allowing supermarkets to build in Helston, hardly an aspiring record of action by Cornwall Council. Which again highlights the administration's poor record in the St Ives constituency and how disinterested this centralised Tory led council is of the far west.

The last point about housing development is rather bizarre considering the vote last week (see Dick Cole's blog) where the Conservative led administration's cabinet voted for the high amount of development. The other claims made (see below) seem to contradict schemes supported by the council such as Truro East, Coyte Farm among others which are on green fields and are in no way in fill. 

I really question the thoughts of the St Ives Conservative party, if they are going to disagree so fundamentally with the policies and actions of their own party in power, then they need to explain the electorate that they are not happy with their party. They also need to explain how supporting them will change things, we have these people in power already. There are already Conservative Councillors in this part of Cornwall and by voting them in the people have got a lack of infrastructure investment, record high car parking prices, a lack of support for small businesses and a free rein for developers to build where they like. Do they think the people of West Cornwall are stupid?

Monday, 5 November 2012

Cornwall Council, trim the top earners and pay a Living Wage


This week is Living Wage week, a campaign I have always admired. The long and short of it is that the Minimum Wage is not enough to live on and the Living Wage campaign instead champions employers to pay an amount that can ensure a decent standard of living, more on that here on the campaign website. It is a well known fact that the top earners at Lys Kernow earn a great deal of money yet at the other end of the scale many do not earn a living wage, this is not fair nor justified. 



It's a deplorable state of affairs that well over fifteen hundred staff employed by Cornwall Council earn wages well short of the level needed for a basic standard of living. I also find it deplorable that at the other end of the scale the bosses and executives earn huge salaries some in excess of £200,000 year. There is a way to right these two wrongs, by reviewing pay to council staff and redistributing money downward to the lowest paid. Putting fairness and common sense at the forefront of pay on Cornwall Council.

Unfortunately New Labour's flagship policy -National Minimum Wage- does not provide enough income to maintain a basic standard of living.Work should pay for everyone, the lowest earners in society deserve their fair share of wages too. At this time of rising living costs and stagnating wage levels, I welcome the Living Wage initiative to help the hardest working in society to a better quality of life. Cornwall Council employs well over 1500 staff at a level below the Living Wage of seven pounds forty five pence per hour see pdf 'Employees paid less than £7.20', the lowest pay grade employees are in fact one pound twenty short of a living wage, this is  not acceptable as a practice and I believe this does not adequately reflect the hard work and dedication of those on the front line of public services in Cornwall. 

These pay grade levels were set by the last Labour government and frozen by the current Conservative Liberal Democrat Coalition. For the pay of the lowest rewarded staff to increase would require Westminster to change their policy, either on the minimum wage and/ or on public sector pay grades, not something Mebyon Kernow is able to do at this stage. But next year, in six months time, there will be elections for Cornwall Council if Mebyon Kernow find itself in power, we are pledging to remedy this wrong to give the common hard working folk more money in their pockets. The Extended Leadership Team of Cornwall Council, just 30 individuals see pdf at bottom, collectively earn over £2.7 million pounds per year, on minimum pay grades and salaries between seventy thousand and two hundred thousand pounds per year. The Leadership are not the only council officials on super high salaries, figures released in 2010 revealed thirty employees are on over one hundred thousand pounds per year and a further one hundred and fifty people on over fifty thousand pounds per year, these figures combing to a staggering ten and a half million pounds. Cornwall Council has grown to be a top heavy organisation in terms of pay, Mebyon Kernow finds it deeply unacceptable that those on the front line working the hardest earn a paltry wage not enough to live modestly yet the richest paid live more than handsomely.

Not only is rebalancing pay the right thing to do it also makes economic sense. Research by the Living Wage Foundation has shown that employees paid the living wage are happier workers, they are more productive they have a lower level of absence.  The benefits to Cornwall Council and the taxpayer are obvious, we will have a more efficient workers happier workers, just by introducing fairness to the pay philosophy of Cornwall Council. Successive council administrations have told the people of Cornwall that the top staff must be paid top money to stay in their jobs or we won't have the best, I accept the logic that paying decent money gets decent personnel but this extended to all staff from the lowest paid up in a much fairer manner. Just one of the things Mebyon Kernow pledge to remedy in our 2013 Cornwall Council manifesto. 

If you are interested in joining MK or learning more our conference is on the 24th of November see here for details

Friday, 2 November 2012

No to nuclear weapons in Cornwall!

With the prospect of Scotland leaving the United Kingdom a very real possibility, the government are fretting about where to put the nuclear weapons based in Coulport Scotland. Their eyes have moved to the area around Falmouth, raising the daunting prospect of weapons of mass destruction being stored in extremely close proximity to some of Cornwall's major settlements. Even more troubling that the villages of Mylor and Flushing would no longer be villages inhabited by people, but cleared for the storage of nuclear warheads. Leaving formerly peaceful villages and riverbanks a veritable fortress of barbed wire and security guards. Placing restrictions on locals, tourists, pleasure craft and fishing boats and undermining the economy. Trident here would greatly increasing the risk of terrorist attack in Cornwall and of course attack by a more conventional enemy in a war.

As Dick Cole blogged, echoing the CND campaign to cut Trident:

"It is well-known that I am also opposed to the scale and depth of the Coalition’s cuts to the public sector, but there is one area of government spending that should be cut and that is nuclear weapons."

You have to question what kind of soceity we live in when we keep mutli billion pounds weapons of mass destruction yet cut disability benefit and sack police officers, teachers and health workers. Surely society would be better served and indeed defended by prioritising jobs and services over Trident?

Even the ex Conservative defence secretary has recently questioned the point of having nuclear weapons. Michael Portillo slammed the Trident replacement as a matter of prestige and a waste of money. With the last dip of recession keen in the memory, the government's number one priority should be what is best for the economy, what is morally right, not some silly show-piece. There are much better things for this government to be spending their money upon, blighting parts of Cornwall with weapons of mass destruction shouldn't even be an option.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Hardly a surprise I know but George Eustice doesn't get it

Today the MP for Camborne, Redruth and Hayle George Eustice has a piece in the Packet, calling for reform of Cornwall Council. Despite the fact the ex-leader Conservative Alec Robertson lost a vote of no confidence for acting in a unilateral way withholding all decision making to the 10 strong cabinet. George Eustice thinks that the decision making at Cornwall Council should be made by even less people. Calling for a mayor to replace the current cabinet system, leaving the 'day to day' running to the council. So despite the Leader and cabinet acting all by themselves with the Joint Venture, against the wishes of the full chamber and the public doesn't seem to get why this was bad for democracy! Suggesting that the cabinet system and leader system should be replaced with one person a mayor for Cornwall to make all of the decisions to hell with what everyone else thinks.

Eustice's dream of single all powerful Cornish leader

The real lesson for the Joint Venture for Shared Services was that a minority can not make all the decisions, that the full council needs to have a say in the decision making, so that every councillors gets to express the view of their electorate to the council. In effect with Eustice's reforms a mayor such as Alec Robertson would have been able to push through the failed Shared Services scheme on his own with no councillor able to hold him to account. Perhaps this is what the MP would have liked? is this really a question of institutions and arrangements and what is best for democracy. Or is George Eustice lamenting a system that did not privatise all and sundry? Is this about a new system of rule by a select elite whereby the Thatcherite dream of outsourcing to the benefit of private profit would be more easily realised?




Monday, 22 October 2012

Second home voters time for action, what about the 22,000

Further than my last post about the astronomical number of second home owners in Cornwall Second homes time for action, it occurs to me that not only are there 23,000 people taking up Cornish homes for the odd weekend and summer holidays but all of these people are entitled to vote and they might well do so. Safe to say any of them that read my last post won't be voting Mebyon Kernow!

After a sustained campaign by members of MK, Lib Dems and Independents notably Angus Lamond, for democracy to be restored and the principle of one person one vote to apply in Cornwall, the council did act. Early last year they struck off 947 second home owners from the electoral register who hitherto had the option to vote where they lived and in Cornwall. But the question now arises after the release of the official figures from the 2011 census when will the other 22,000 people be struck off? The possible impact of this many votes is huge, in all levels of election in Cornwall. It is obvious that MPs, councillors and MEPs hold their seats by small fractions of this number. It is scary how democracy can be undermined in such a way and it is imperative upon the electoral returns officer and CEO of Cornwall Council Kevin Lavery to investigate this matter again with more vigour and strike off all of those not legally eligible to vote in Cornwall.

Second homes time for action!

Today the ONS released details from last years census of the number of people who own a second home in Cornwall but reside elsewhere. I was truly astonished at the scale of non residential holiday homes here in Kernow, nearly 23,000 people have one here, more than any local authority in England and Wales.  As a comparison that's more people than live in Bodmin (14,700), Hayle (9,500), Helston (11,500), Newquay (20,600), Penzance, (including Heamoor, Newlyn, Gulval, Long Rock and Ludgvan)  (21,500) and slightly less than the combined population  of Truro and Threemilestone (23,600) source. So the entire population of Penzance -and the surrounding area- could leave their houses and find new accommodation and the majority of those second home owners wouldn't be any the wiser until next summer.

This is staggering and at a time when nearly 20,000 people are on Cornwall Council's waiting list (plus more not on the list). Cornwall Council keeps insisting to fill these demands to find people homes we will have to have large scale developments on green field land. Or indeed using play parks, green spaces and large gardens on housing estates to build more houses/ ghettos. It is obvious that this is not the case we need not sacrifice large amounts of green spaces and prime agricultural land we need not build huge conurbations to meet the needs of Cornwall's resident population. There is adequate housing in Cornwall.

I wrote about this subject over 12 months ago, Cornwall and the blight of second homes, and there are options to limit second homes, there are ways to ensure houses are not treated as a commodity or status symbol for London's elites, but are homes for families to live in all year around. There are incentives that can be made to encourage people to stay in hotels rather than under using residential properties. If people are not willing it is within the realms of the compulsory purchase act to buy these second homes with or without the consent of the owners. The time has come for politicians to actually do something out of these many options, to finally put the people of Cornwall first.

What really winds me up from 2010 till now is that Mebyon Kernow had in our 2010 manifesto that second homes needed to be dealt with and one of the ways to do this was to make it a legal requirement that planning permission was needed to change the houses use from residential to second home. As sure as a cat chases a mouse the Liberal Democrats copied the idea and incorporated it into their campaign. I'm not completely partisan if they had done something about it, I would be happy but alas nothing. Despite promises to the electorate not even a peep, despite being in government and all the powers and privileges that entails they have not even mentioned it in the corridors of power. In much the same way as they did nothing about it for the four years they controlled both the old Cornwall County Council and all 5 of Cornwall's MPs were yellow.

The arguments for second homes are neatly summed up in this BBC Cornwall article from Plymouth Second Homes a Double Edged Sword in Rock, very disappointingly arguments for second homes are not contested and dominate the piece. One trader explains that second home owners are everything for their trade. This oft repeated line is that second home owners far from being a drain on communities actually use local shops and pubs. They employ local workmen to work on their homes providing a valuable economic boost. Without second homes (perhaps this is just obvious to me) full time residents would use shops, pubs and get their homes worked on all year. Leaving the second home owners to stay in hotels and B&Bs, shop in the same shops, drink in the same pubs and the workmen would have work with the extra wear and tear on where they are staying.

The time for talk on second homes is over, the authorities in Truro and in London need to accept that this is a problem and that something needs to be done.


Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Cornwall Council: The old privatisation King is Dead Long Live the new privatisation King

Yesterday saw a turbulent meeting at Cornwall Council, which saw an increasingly hot tempered debate and ultimately the sacking of Alec Robertson as Council leader (63 votes to 49) and the widespread proclamation that the Joint Venture for Shared Services was dead in the water. And that the election of the Conservative Jim Currie spelt the end for this privatisation scheme. But is it the end of it?

The left was triumphant yesterday after the dethronement of Alec, people including myself hailed the end of this great gamble. Encouraged by Jim Curries words in his bid for the leadership, seeing off the contender Neil Burden with a speech decrying the privatisation scheme, whereas Burden now the deputy leader spoke for a slimmed down version of the scheme. The morning after the night before I have some doubts about the level of victory, no doubt the Guardian article by Patrick Butler had it right (if details a bit sketchy, Cornwall County Council apparently and no mention of the NHS and health partners being part of the scheme) with the title Thatcher's pro-outsourcing fantasy fails in reality. A popular protest evident in the petition, the cross party support for it, the protest outside Lys Kernow yesterday by members of the Unions, Cornwall ant-cuts Alliance, Penwith anti-cuts Alliance and members of Mebyon Kernow and the Labour party. Not to mention of course councillors voting with the public against the interests of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat dogma of neo-liberal privatisation emanating from Westminster. This was a victory both for common sense and the interests of the public in keeping public services run by the democratic and accountable authorities.

However we must be wise to the fact that Jim Currie is still a Conservative and the right leaning Conservative-Independent coalition  is still in power at Cornwall Council (after an alternative coalition involving the Lib Dems was not reached). We must also acknowledge that Jim Currie was until recently deputy member of the Tory group and cabinet member in charge of finances and corporate support. Under his tenure in this office plans were drawn up to turn the council into a commissioning body, precisely the kind of move that led to the Joint Venture/ Shared Services plan. Read more about that here from back in April this year CC press release "Commissioning Council". Add to this the fact that the same councillors that have devised this scheme are still in office and the same officers and particularly Kevin Lavery are in power. As Tony Collins of the Campaign 4 Change warned yesterday:


"The new leader  Jim Currie won the vote in favour of his appointment by a margin of only three.  Though he is against an outsourcing deal, he will find himself up against opposition from some colleagues and particularly some senior officials.
The strength of feeling in some parts of the council for a deal to be signed is remarkable. Could that strength of feeling overcome opposition to the signing of a deal, even with Currie as the new leader"

A very good point, Tony also discusses to the fact that Jim despite his words yesterday in garnering support from councillors, has not ruled out reviving the scheme. An interview with Jim Currie on This is Cornwall contains the passage:


Mr Currie had been elected to the top job with the implicit backing of non-party members who supported his stance against the council’s joint venture with a private sector firm. However, he said that his concerns were with the massive scale of the venture that had been pursued and that he might have been happy with a substantially smaller deal.
He said the bid – which would have seen Cornwall Council and a private firm form a partnership to run key services – was not dead in the water.
“Never say never,” he said. “It might be an option of last resort.”
But he added: “We are not galloping forward with it at any great haste.”

Jim Currie ready for council business

So not ruling it out entirely?
Have members of the council that supported the claim of being anti-privatisation (including Mebyon Kernow and an assortment of Liberal Democrats, Conservatives and Independents) been hoodwinked?
Was the Independent Bob Egerton and the Liberal Democrat Ruth Lewarne right to propose and second Jim Currie's leadership bid?

As ever whilst the Tories (and their Indy chums at CC and Lib Dems up the road) are in power the fight to keep public services public, to put people before profit goes on. The debate next tuesday in response to the public petition calling for the original motion, will be the first test of the leadership of Jim Currie, will he come clean then as an outsourcer? will we face yet another no confidence vote as yet another Tory defies the will of the people and ordinary councillors?

Please join me in doing the following and help to hold these people to account and keep their word.

Sign the petition to shelve Shared Services here.
Contact your Cornwall Councillor here.
Contact the new Cornwall Council leader jcurrie@cornwall.gov.uk



Monday, 15 October 2012

Some thoughts on the Society Cornwall survey...

Tomorrow the 16th of October the leader of Cornwall Council faces his vote of no confidence. Brought about from his unwavering support for a Joint Venture on Shared Services (see my thoughts on that here and here) despite the vote of councillors against the scheme and the hugely popular petition against the scheme. Before tomorrows protest on the issue outside Lys Kernow starting at 9:30 and this fateful day the leadership can take little comfort in a survey conducted by Society Cornwall on attitudes toward local government in Cornwall. Here's a picture of their results:

http://www.societycornwall.co.uk/news/how-you-feel-about-local-government-in-cornwall/
Now there are caveats to the survey, it was only a sample of 129 Cornish residents over 5 days. But despite the small number of respondents there are clear conclusions. The cabinet system is widely condemned 47%  against it as the best form of governance with only 10% agreeing  and thus 43% presumably I don't know. Or in other words 61 don't like the present cabinet system, 13 do like it and 55 I don't know. Small numbers clearly but nonetheless a clearly identifiable trend.

Now as always with types of governance we have to evaluate that the actions of particular body have to be separated from the style of organisation. That is to say, have the decisions of the 10 strong cabinet made people dislike the cabinet or is it the organisational structure itself? Personally I strongly dislike the Cabinet model and don't think it's suitable for Cornwall Council, the Joint Venture for Shared Services is an excellent example of how this system is undemocratic despite the entirety of Cornwall Councillors voting against this privatisation partnership the cabinet remains resolute in supporting the scheme. In a more democratic system then the majority clearly expressing their will would have meant the plan was axed and it begs the question what is the point of having 123 councillors if only 10 have a say in s major change in policy like this?

I think it could be suggested that the fact 48% of people think that their community is not well represented clearly demonstrates that people feel the council to not be democratic and or responsive to the views Cornish public. Again is this a result of the rule of the Tory-Independent regime? or a result of the strangely exclusive and unrepresentative cabinet system? Either way this is bad news for Alec Robertson's besieged leadership and although only a snap shot, a clear indication that people aren't happy with his administration. Suggesting that him being removed from power tomorrow would be supported by the people of Cornwall.

All of the questions and answers are intriguing but I am perplexed what to make of the last question. 53% of respondents agreed that party politics should have no place in local government with 22% disagreeing. Obviously has a long history of electing independent councillors and this is reflected, yet it does not take into account that all but 2 of Cornwall's Independent councillors are in a group in coalition with the Tories, this group is in all but name a political party and keeps the Tories in power. I am deeply confused as to the point of voting Independent if by proxy you are voting for Tories or any other party for that matter. With this in mind I do wonder if those 53% of respondents think voting for Independents in any way equates to keeping party politics out of Cornwall, or if this is a sign of frustration with Cornwall's quasi-independent councillors?

Personally I really like this survey conducted by Society Cornwall, the study of the views of the Cornish public towards government is long overdue and can only add to the democratic process. I implore my readers to look at their website and join if they so wish. http://www.societycornwall.co.uk/join-society-cornwall/

Monday, 8 October 2012

Cornwall Council's possible u turn on Shared Services, don't be fooled.

Today it has been announced that Alec Robertson has signalled a possible u turn on Shared Services. Possible because Alec has changed his posture from one of, my mind won't be changed to it might be changed, now placing it in the hands of councillors to decide. Which appears to suggest that the motion to kick out the Joint Venture on Shared Services will be ignored and the issue will yet again be debated in full council. A clear indication that the embattled regime are still seeking to push ahead with the scheme and are willing to ignore the clear vote of councillors. Great work by everyone who signed the petition and got us to this stage but the fight must go on.

Last friday there was a meeting of the Conservative group on Cornwall Council and no doubt this was high on the agenda, especially considering the threat it poses to the beleaguered leader's position in the upcoming no confidence vote. I would imagine that the crux of that meeting was to ensure that Tory councillors ignore the popular petition signed by thousands of Cornwall's residents, the vote in full council and the examples of Somerset County Council's, Liverpool City Council among other failing partnership schemes and only listen to the leadership. There are also rumours that Conservative councillors face deselection in next years local elections if they continue to defy Alec Robertson and Kevin Laverys' privatisation scheme. 

I have little doubt in my mind that all the Tories that want a future in the party, will line up behind their leader, support him in the no confidence vote and rail road through this Shared Services plan afterward. Party politics at it's worst with the individual councillors views and votes subordinated to the demands of the Conservative party. There are of course ways in which the council will not be able to force through Shared Services, first and foremost continuing to get people to sign the petition, link here and demonstrating the widespread anxiety about the over optimistic promises of the pro privatisation leadership. Of course putting pressure on Tory councillors to vote with their conscience and represent the people that they represent, this point remains true of all councillors. As I blogged before the Liberal Democrats despite being in opposition have mixed views on the subject. The Independents too need to think and act independently and not blindly follow the Conservative party into supporting this unpopular privatisation. 

The fight for the right for Cornish public services from both the council and the health service to remain run by accountable public institutions for the benefit of the public not profit is not over. As we have seen recently with the pasty tax, the Conservatives are very adept at announcing a u turn thus quelling opposition and being able to carry on regardless, lets not be fooled again. Please sign and share the petition, again link here. Also write to your councillor find their details here.

Unless of course you want these kind of headlines for Cornwall and Cornish ratepayers to pay for their mistakes: 

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Bona Vacantia, the Duchy of Cornwall, the case of the missing money

The Telegraph ran with a story about the income of the Duke of Cornwall from bona vacantia yesterday. This is when people die in Cornwall without a will or a next of kin then their possessions are deemed to be ownerless goods (the meaning of bona vacantia in Latin) and are appropriated by the Duchy of Cornwall. In England these 'goods' land, property, belongings, money and so on are appropriated by the Crown and passed over to the Treasury (i.e. the government) but in Cornwall now and since 1337 these unclaimed possessions pass to the Duchy. For centuries these assets merely became part of the heir to the English thrones fortune, but since the 1970s they have been passed to the Duchy of Cornwall's Benevolent Fund or at least that's the story. So upon reading the story I thought I'd have a quick look on the internet and see where this money went and the story of the money is very curious...

Clarence House London headquarters of the Duchy of Cornwall
Firstly the Telegraph reports that the income to the Duchy from Cornwall's dead equals £1,019,000 since 2006 (presumbly up to the end of the Duchy's accounting year, probably last year). So where does this small fortune end up? the Duchy's website was my first port of call and reveals that:

Over the last seven years, The Duke of Cornwall’s Benevolent Fund has donated nearly £800,000 to a wide range of organisations and much of the funding goes towards charitable projects which help the environment, conservation, wildlife, community projects and the advancement of art, religion and education. 

Duchy of Cornwall: Bona Vacantia and the Duke of Cornwall's benevolent fund

Now I am completely confused at this, the period that the Telegraph reported was from 2006 to some point in 2011 was 5 years in this time the Duchy received over 1 million pounds from Bona Vacantia. It is noted that some money is held back in case of claims by rightful heirs to the money/ assets. But still if the Duchy claims £1,000,000 in 5 years then what does it claim in 7? We might presume on average that it earns £200,000 per year therefore over 7 years it ought to claim £1,400,000 which doesn't seem to tally with the £800,000 mentioned as donations on the Duchy's own website and reveals a potential discrepancy of £600,000 of undonated and unaccounted for money. I can't explain where this money goes and the Duchy is such a tight lipped outfit and has always shunned transparency in it's affairs so it is nigh on impossible to delve further.

However charities are perfectly clear and have to publish accounts, so I accessed the Duke of Cornwall's Benevolent Fund on the Charity Commission's website, it reveals the accounts and outlines the spending of the benevolent fund over the last 5 years. The first filed are for the year end June 2011. This table is taken directly from the government's Charity Commission site:

Financial year end (FYE)IncomeSpendingAccounts receivedAnnual Return/Annual Update receivedView
30 Jun 2011£84,996£150,17806 Feb 201206 Feb 2012Accounts
30 Jun 2010£70,928£119,06710 Feb 201110 Feb 2011Accounts
30 Jun 2009£113,252£112,97310 Feb 201010 Feb 2010Accounts
30 Jun 2008£139,316£200,83212 Feb 200912 Feb 2009Accounts
30 Jun 2007£122,252£188,41714 Mar 200814 Mar 2008Accounts


Now again we return to the figure quoted in the Telegraph £1,019,000 for the income of the Duchy from Bona Vacantia over the last 5 years. Adding up the figures in the income column above we get to £530,774, leaving a glaring gap between the 1 million and the published figures of roughly half or exactly £529,725. So where is half of the money going? The picture looks bleaker and that question gets more prescient when we delve into the accounts themselves which reveal that the Benevolent fund gains income from investments and other sources as well as Bona Vacantia. So establishing quite what the black hole is becomes much more difficult and troubling. Where exactly does the money from Cornwall's dead under medieval Bona Vacantia laws go?

Charles Windsor and his bling

As a side note it is very telling that the main beneficiary of donations from the 'benevolent Duke' is charities in his name as Prince of Wales. Topping the donations table in terms of amounts given (see the account pdfs here) every year:

2011 The Prince's Countryside Fund £50,000,
2010 The Prince's Foundation £15,000,
2009  High Moorland Action Group £15,000 and The Prince's Foundation 15,000,
2008 The Prince's Regeneration Trust 105,000,
2007 High Moorland Action Group £100,000

Cornish causes and charities are very much further down the list in terms of sums donated.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Split in the Liberal Democrats over Shared Services privatisation

There seems to be a split in the Liberal Democrat party over the Strategic Partnership for Shared Services proposed by the Conservative- Independent administration on Cornwall Council. Despite statements by Liberal Democrat councillors, the party is really split. Whether this is a result of being in favour of privatisation or whether they do not want to upset Nick Clegg and David Cameron is unclear, or so disillusioned they no longer turn up and vote. Considering this is the party that in Westminster is parcelling up the National Health Service to the higher bidder, they should come clean with the Cornish electorate...

Lib Dem deputy leader on Cornwall Council Alex Folkes explained to the Packet that he signed the no confidence motion to oust Alec Robertson as leader:

“In particular, the decision by the Cabinet to press ahead with their privatisation scheme despite a vote by a majority of councillors against it. If the leader and cabinet system is to work then those in charge have to listen to the will of the majority of councillors."
link

Which obviously is meant to represent his and his parties views on the subject. Alex also blogged and explained that he signed the petition against the Shared Services Scheme (read that here). So the average voter could be forgiven for thinking that Alex and his LD chums are united in opposition and doing everything in their power to scupper the ridiculous scheme. However if you read the excellent This is Cornwall guide to how your councillor voted, it's hard to maintain the view that the Lib Dems oppose this privatisation wholeheartedly.

The political make up of Cornwall Council is such that the administration can only lose a vote if the Conservative group and the Independent group shed votes to the opposition and all of the opposition vote against the ruling group. However the motion to scrap Shared Services had a very strange outcome in terms of voting. Not all Conservatives and Independents voted with the Cabinet and not all Liberal Democrats voted against the cabinet or indeed voted at all.

Like it or loathe it, the introduction of Shared Services would be the biggest change to Cornwall Council since the introduction of unitary it would effect everything. Surely if there was a vote not to miss it was this one. Yet there were 33 absences, 12 of which from the Liberal Democrat party  (Alex Folkes, Jackie Bull, Joyce Duffin, George Edwards, Sasha Gillard-Loft, Brian Hobbs, Jan Powell, Colin Riches, Pat Rogerson, Roy Taylor, John Turner and Kym Willoughbly.) 14 abstentions, 3 were from the Lib Dems (Joanna Kenny, Ann Kerridge, Shirley Polmounter.) And surprisingly one of the most senior Liberal Democrats Lord Robin Teverson voted with his London coalition partners for the Shared Services scheme to continue.

In total, the Liberal Democrats have 37 councillors on Cornwall Council (probably less when you read this, defections are ripe), 16 of which either didn't turn up, didn't vote or supported the Shared Services scheme.

So my curiosity wonders do they support the privatisation of council services?

Are they keen to play nice with the Tories in order to keep the Clegg- Cameron love in, intact?

Or do nearly half of them really not care enough to turn up and vote?

It's interesting to note that if the council leader, Alec Robertson had managed to get Conservative and Independent councillors to vote with him then the motion to throw out Shared Services would have been roundly defeated. With Mebyon Kernow and Labour the only political groups wholeheartedly opposing the scheme it is fortunate that even Tories can see that this plan is unrealistic and not in the best interests of Cornwall's public sector employees or the taxpayer and voted against it (or didn't bother to turn up and/or vote.)

This ambiguity in the Liberal Democrat camp is also evident in the no confidence motion signed, it has been signed by 42 councillors, 6 Mebyon Kernow, 1 Labour, a number of Independents (at least 3 I can think of undoubtedly a lot more). So if you add the Liberal Democrat councillors the number should be at least 47, however it's not. Again the questions above are raised.

If you haven't already sign the petition To stop the Strategic Partnership for Shared Services

Monday, 24 September 2012

Clegg's using pensions for property scheme, don't hold your breath

The Liberal Democrat leader boasted at the party's annual conference that, his government are announcing a plan to help first time buyers get on the housing ladder. Attracting great headlines and no doubt steadying the queasy Lib Dem membership, this plan sounds great and going by the old maxim if it sounds to be good to be true it probably is. Basically the plan is for first time buyers to use their parents pensions to afford a deposit and voilĂ  break the high house prices versus low wages deadlock, win win, well at least superficially.

Clegg in his leafy suburb, practising his sorry face.
My initial scepticism of the plan was whether it would just be meant for richer families. I asked on twitter if the plans would include state pensions and the replies were none, not a single one. A little odd I thought, so I checked it out and indeed it does not include state pensions, only private pensions. Perhaps the millionaire Clegg in his lovely home in a fashionable neighbourhood of London is unaware, but here among us common folk, private pensions are rarer than Liberal Democrat supporters. The children of fishermen, factory workers, labourers, builders or to put it short many ordinary Cornish people do not have great pension pots to dip into. My parents for one unfortunately were relying upon paying national insurance to get a pension, believing in good faith that would be enough. What hope does this scheme offer the most needy, again and again this government appeals to the most affluent.

This was my initial critique, digging further past the flattering headlines I came across this great piece on the Guardian website Will Nick Clegg's 'pension for property' scheme work. It turns out that the pension providers are very sceptical about this scheme, presumably without their backing this scheme would fail. But that's not the worst thing about it......

Realistically though the Lib Dems are working on an assumption that only 12,500 people would take up the offer. Privately they say the industry suggests a range of 10,000 to 20,000. It's a tiny figure, and doesn't warrant the rather dramatic introduction from Nick Clegg on the Marr show, but better than nothing, they say. link

To put that figure in context there are a lot more people than that on the housing waiting list in Cornwall never mind throughout the UK! This is the problem with the Liberal Democrats and their Conservative chums they recognise problems but don't get even close to dealing with them. Which says a lot for the state of Nick's party, one of the great centre pieces of their conference, the great policy announcement is a half baked idea that will benefit a tiny percentage of people.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Vote of no confidence is perfect opportunity for Independents to leave the sinking ship

Alec Robertson the leader of Cornwall Council is facing a vote of no confidence on the 16th of October, after 41 councillors have signed a motion to oust him as leader. This provides the perfect opportunity for the Independent group to walk away from their coalition with the Conservatives. The political make up of the council is such that the Tories cling to power with the connivance of Independent councillors. Pulling the rug from underneath them is not only possible but the sensible thing to do, the ruling group is at the moment ignoring the votes of the majority of councillors and the thousands of members of the public who signed the petition to oppose the Shared Services partnership. The council can hardly be described as popular suffering from too many bad news stories to link them all, it is in the interests of the people of Cornwall and indeed the people that voted for Independent councillors that they once again act, think and vote like independents rather than propping up the Conservative party.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Council Tax devolved and how localism is more expensive to the Cornish taxpayer than an assembly

A while back I wrote about the Tory criticisms of a Cornish Assembly. I pointed out that devolution to a Cornish assembly may well be expensive to public funds but what of localism where does the money come from? My real fear is that powers will be devolved to Cornwall but the taxes that paid for them will remain in London. At the time it was hard to confirm this fear, there is no real plans that cover what localism will mean in Cornwall, what the details and pros and cons will be. In fact I am coming to the conclusion  that localism is an ad hoc arrangement, whereby politicians and bureaucrats decide amongst themselves what Westminster no longer wants responsibility for and they just 'wing it' and fudge something together. However some details have come to light and it seems my fears are being realised. This means for the Cornish taxpayer that we will still pay the same amount of tax (income tax, national insurance, vat, fuel duty, road tax, corporation tax, capital gains etc etc) to central government but that will no longer be spent on the same services and will be siphoned off to be spent elsewhere. Whilst our council tax will pay for services previously paid for by the treasury. The bottom line is the Cornish taxpayer will pay more for the same (if not fewer) services.

Take for example the devolution of council tax benefit responsibility to Cornwall Council. As their press release states:

"As part of the Government’s changes to the national benefits scheme they are passing responsibility for council tax benefit to local councils such as Cornwall Council and we must create our own Localised Council Tax Support (CTS) scheme.
....
Under the new scheme the Government will no longer cover the full cost and is reducing the amount of funding available to Cornwall Council for benefit support by 12.5%. We estimate this means that Cornwall Council has £6 million less funding than the current scheme has to distribute in Cornwall to people who receive council tax benefit."
Changes to the Council Tax Benefit scheme

This means in effect that the council will be faced with the unenviable decision to either cut council tax benefit or find more funds from the already stretched budget. This will be disastrous for people on council tax benefit,  the unemployed, disabled and the lowest earning families will lose out. As we see time and time again taxes for the rich and corporations have been slashed by this Conservative and Liberal Democrats government at the expense of the poorest and most needy in society. The upshot for the Cornish economy is very negative with these changes, effectively whether the council makes the poorest pay more council tax or takes money out of the budget, the Cornish economy will lose an estimated £6 million pounds per year. This money will be kept by the treasury and spent on whichever whim Westminster fancies and further depress the economic outlook of Cornwall.


A Cornish Assembly may well incur a cost to public funds, this is true, there is no lie in George Eustice and Sarah Newtons' statement, creating a Cornish Assembly would take public money from London and spend it in Cornwall there would be a cost to the treasury. However what they failed to mention is that localism is very attractive for central government they devolve power and keep most of the tax that was currently used to pay for it. However for the Cornish taxpayer and the Cornwall's economy localism is much more costly it takes more public money out of our economy and keeps it in London. It will result in less services and Cornish people paying yet more council tax. The Conservatives may fear that a Cornish Assembly would take money out of the treasury, their number one priority. But as Mebyon Kernow member I would much rather that more Cornish taxpayers money was spent here and I believe that localism is a complete nonsense and will undermine Cornish public services and our economy without repatriation of our taxes to pay for the devolved functions. I despair that Conservative MPs would rather save the treasury money than protect public services and the Cornish economy, George Eustice and Sarah Newton are the worst examples of MPs representing Westminster's interests to Cornwall rather than representing Cornwall's interests to Westminster.

Friday, 14 September 2012

BT and CSC NHS IT fiasco proves they are not suitable partners for Cornwall Council and the Cornish NHS

Ignoring the will of councillors and their voting down proposals, Cornwall Council's cabinet are still intent on pressing ahead with a Strategic Partnership of Shared Services with either British Telecom (BT) or Computer Sciences Corp. Embarrassingly for the administration, not only lost a vote about the proposals but also a petition subsequently launched by Independent Councillor Andrew Wallis has attracted 1796 signatures in less than a week (link here) and there is no indication that anybody (outside of the ruling clique and BT and CSCs' boardrooms) want these changes.

I thought I would have a look around the internet and see if there was any credibility in the proposed benefits of setting up a joint venture, the claims are that jobs will be created, savings made and services improved whilst profits are somehow squeezed out of the current budget. I always had doubts that all of these things were simultaneously possible and from a quick search of the internet neither BT or CSC has any credibility in delivering such grandiose promises. BT however are very keen to protect their image by threatening to unleash their lawyers on Cornwall Councillors shockingly with the connivance of Cornwall Council's own legal team, (read that more about that here).

The National Health Service is a great example of how both have no credibility in making savings or improving services. Both BT and CSC were working on setting up the NHS National Programme for IT (NPFIT). Essential reading on this NPFIT from the Computer World UK news site include:

CSC may not be fit for government work, ministers warned in NHS disaster report an excerpt:


The powerful Public Accounts Committee has delivered a stinging rebuke to CSC, by advising the government to give “serious consideration” to whether the IT supplier is “fit” to tender for other public sector work following serious failures on the NHS National Programme for IT.
In nine years under a £3.1 billion contract, CSC has delivered systems to only three acute hospitals, and has missed numerous deadlines.

BT Slammed over NHS NPFIT 'value for money claim' an excerpt:


The powerful Public Accounts Committee has heavily criticised the Department of Health and BT for signing a contract that cut only a fraction of NHS National Programme for IT costs in London in return for half as many large system deployments.
It also said the department was drastically overpaying for systems in smaller mental health trusts with BT elsewhere.


Even the head of the National Audit Office pulled no punches:

The original vision for the National Programme for IT in the NHS will not be realised. The NHS is now getting far fewer systems than planned despite the Department paying contractors almost the same amount of money. 

Eventually and unsurprisingly the NPFIT was scrapped.

Neither BT or CSC have any credibility in their claims, Cornwall Council would be very unwise to repeat the mistakes of the Blair government in commissioning these corporations to run public services. The taxpayer will end up out of pocket and none of the 'service deliveries' will be anything more than empty promises.

If you haven't already please do sign the petition, when I started writing the number of signatures at 1796 and its now at 1813 link here.


Tuesday, 11 September 2012

petition against Cornwall Councils privatisation shared services scheme

Sign the petition against Cornwall Council's Strategic Partnership for Shared Services privitisation plans.
link to the epetition here
Four reasons to sign:

1. The people have not been asked. We the people of Cornwall that will pay for this scheme have not been asked. The Conservative party and Independent group did not stand on this privatisation scheme in an election. Despite the multi million pound nature of the contract the administration has unilaterally decided without a public referundum to take this action.

2. The workers that will have their employment transfered no doubt with worse terms and conditions have not been properly consulted. Every indication is that employees -who ought to know best about public services- do not want this part privatisation.

3. Despite the grandiose promises of the scheme providing savings, creating jobs and profits for the partner corporations, examples of this actually happening are hard to find. Authorities elsewhere have already ditched similar schemes when costs rose and taxpayers money was piled into the schemes to keep them afloat. Providing no savings, less jobs, more costs and worse public services.

4. Cornwall Councillors voted down this scheme and were very clear in their opposition. Despite this the select few in the cabinet, will not listen and pay more heed to slick corporate (unrealistic) arguments. Personally I'd prefer to live in a democracy whereby the people and councillors were listened to and respected. This is still a democracy after all.

Thanks for reading and don't forget to sign.

A breath of fresh air at Penzance Town Council

The election has certainly rung a great many changes at Penzance Town Council. There are now 12 brand new councillors (although Simon Reed...