Skip to main content

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



Popular posts from this blog

The 3 actions Penzance Town Centre needs from Cornwall Council

My name is Rob Simmons and I'm a candidate for Penzance East in this Thursdays Cornwall Council election and these are my 3 priorities for our town centre:  1 Action on reducing Parking Fees  2 Action on unfair business rates 3 Action on empty shops and buildings.  I firmly believe that Cornwall Council ought to do more to support Penzance Town Centre and these 3 changes would be a massive leap forward.

1.Action on Parking Fees, Penzance has some of the highest parking fees in Cornwall, we all know that it puts people off coming to town and crucially shoppers from staying for longer periods. With out of town retail parks popping up everywhere and the lure and convenience of the internet our town centre needs help. Cornwall Council must do it's part in supporting the town centre. Penzance needs a Cornwall Councillor that will lobby to change this and find a solution that benefits us and stops CC seeing Penzance as a way of making money. We need to see a major overhaul of parking…

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 has been on the council before). Between retirements and not getting re-elected not a single mayor that served between 2013-2017 is now on the council and only 1 that served as deputy mayor in that time are still on the council. A number of former mayors, deputy mayors and chairs and vice chairs of committees are also no longer with the council. Or to put it another way many of the active town councillors that formed the approach and policies of the town council in the past are no longer there pulling the strings.

When I was first elected back in 2013 there was a feeling that (long overdue) change had been brought to the council, that those new people elected had brought change. That was the feeling with 8 new councillors elected and 12 of the existing councillors being re-elected. This time around there are 12 new councillors and only 8 from befo…

Meeting with Premier Inn about proposed Branwell's Mill development

As many of you will have read online and in the local papers. Premier Inn are interested in setting up a hotel in Branwell's Mill in Penzance. Last night members of the Town Council were invited to a presentation by the agents from the hotel chain in St John's Hall. The Town Council rightly has a clear position that it is neutral on this development. Due to Code of Conduct rules and particularly Section 25 of the Localism Act, councillors must not enter debates with a closed mind. Or to put in plain terms the council and councillors can not be seen to have made a decision before the meeting and before they see the facts before them of that meeting. As with any planning application in the parish of Penzance it will be reviewed, debated and voted on by Penzance Town Council  Added to the fact that I've seen a presentation for the developers but not been able to speak to hear other sides of the story. This post is primarily to inform yourselves of what is happening rather th…