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