Friday, 4 November 2011

Who wears the trousers at Cornwall Council?

Here he is Mr Kevin Lavery, ex-Serco golden boy, ex Newcastle City Council, parachuted in to run Cornwall Council on the tidy sum of £200,000 plus benefits a year. Now of course Lavery is in charge at County Hall, he is the CEO and he earns the most money, he runs the shop. I have no problem with this essentially, he is paid handsomely to oversee the management of services of Cornwall Council, this is the definition of a Chief Executive Officer. What I take exception too is the fact Lavery forgets that Cornwall Council is not a company it is a governmental organisation, it is democratic. He may think and act like he is lord and master but councillors are meant to make the decisions and the CEO act on them, this is the definition of democracy.

Even from the page on the Cornwall Council website, policy comes first.

The chief executive's department is headed by the Assistant Chief Executive and is responsible for leading the corporate improvement agenda including:

So we might expect Lavery to listen and implement policy as decided by democratically elected councillors, but no. First we had the exclusive revealed on this blog, that councillors voted to lobby the government for fair funding and demand a commission to ascertain and solve underfunding in Cornwall. Completely ignored by Lavery and Conservative leader Alec Robertson, my blog about it here: Fair Funding for Cornwall: an insight into democracy (if you're interested the council never responded to my additional question see here, and I assume the CEO's office and the political leadership have no interest in the will of councillors nor -sadly- fair funding for Cornish public services).

I digress, the latest undemocratic debacle from Lavery concerns the position of Electoral Returning Officer for the upcoming Police Commissioner elections. Cornwall Councillors were adamant that a delegation was sent up to London, (save for pro-Labour bloggers, who treated the subject with disdain :the Devonwall conspiracy and How to cut off your nose to spite your face) anyway the councillors agreed that they did not agree to Lavery overseeing the election. The exact wording for the minutes was:

  1. The Council urgently meets with the Chief Constable and Chair of Devon and Cornwall Police Authority to assert:

    (i) equal partnership between Devon and Cornwall
    (ii) fair division of resource
    (iii) policing style relevant and effective for Cornwall
    (iv) equal representation in governance of police
  2. The Council Send a strong cross party delegation to Home Secretary to assert stronger Cornish representation in governance, opposition to Devonwall, assessment of case for a Cornish Commissioner and police force, and the principle of democratic governance and accountability.
  3. The Returning Officer should act in Cornwall and Isles of Scilly only.
  4. Any costs of potential electoral exercises should be fully reimbursed by Her Majesty’s Government.

It must be noted that much like fair funding, Alec Robertson was in favour of Lavery being the Returning Officer for the election and they together have yet again ignored the votes of councillors. Kevin Lavery will be the Returning Officer against the democratic will of councillors, there is no sign of any delegation to lobby for fair Cornish representation. Further more there is no guarantee that central government will pay for the election and/or reimburse Lavery's wages whilst he does this job or pay for any other Cornwall Council staff roped in to help out central government.

There is an abject lack of democracy at Cornwall Council, democracy needs to be re-injected into the authority. The power of the political and executive leadership is too strong, they need to be ruled by the chamber and instructed by votes of councillors. People will lose confidence in the principles of democracy itself if Lavery & Robertson are allowed to continued to rule the council like despots. Accountability to the public is sorely lacking and the power of the chamber is non-existent. Institutional reform is needed and we need new leaders who would rather fight for democracy and Cornwall than their own CVs.

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