Cornish deputy leader resigns over risk to taxpayers’ money

October 10, 2012 1:26 PM

The deputy leader of Cornwall Council has resigned, citing the inability of the authority to control public expenditure in joint ventures with the private sector. In an email to the council leader, Cllr Jim Currie said: ‘I could not leave local government with billions of pounds of Cornish taxpayers’ money at risk and on my conscience.’

‘We have wasted £42m plus on the unitary [authority], £42m plus on the [St Dennis] incinerator and we are now proposing to risk a great deal more on the joint venture,’ he explained further. ‘I am resigning from the cabinet today as I feel that I have pushed the cause of retaining council control over joint ventures as far as I can with the cabinet.’

The £117m incinerator planned for St Dennis in Mid Cornwall has been dogged by legal challenges, and a recent suggestion to independently assess alternative waste schemes was rejected by the cabinet on financial grounds.

The six districts of Cornwall County Council were abolished in April 2009 to create the present unitary authority of Cornwall Council, but the process drew widespread criticism—and wasted expenditure—when the public demanded that the new logo and motto be dropped and the old one kept.

As Cornish politicians have pressed for devolved government, along the lines of the National Assembly for Wales, the council is entertaining grandiose plans for a National Theatre of Cornwall, a National Library of Cornwall and a major sports stadium. In addition, Cornwall Council is backing plans for the Cornish to be recognised as a National Minority in the UK, and is pursuing a Protocol of Cooperation between the regions of Cornwall and Brittany to apply for European Union—that is, taxpayer—funding.

Cllr Currie fears that plans to part privatise services such as libraries, benefits and payroll—involving contracts worth £300m a year—will not deliver good value for the taxpayer. ‘The financial risks involved with the rush into the new Joint Venture proposals are unacceptable,’ he says in his resignation email. An independent councillor agrees: ‘You cannot forget Jim has been in the inter-circle of the Cabinet, and was the Portfolio Holder for Finance so would know more than most.’

Cornwall Council attracted derision recently over its incompetent rubbish and recycling contracts. Council leader Alec Robertson faces a vote of no confidence on 16 October while a full-council debate on the joint venture plans takes place on 26 October.

‘We’re in a situation where Cornwall Council is becoming a laughing stock,’ said the leader of the council opposition party. ‘There’s an administration there now which has this bunker mentality, it’s completely out of touch.’The deputy leader of Cornwall Council has resigned, citing the inability of the authority to control public expenditure in joint ventures with the private sector. In an email to the council leader, Cllr Jim Currie said: ‘I could not leave local government with billions of pounds of Cornish taxpayers’ money at risk and on my conscience.’

‘We have wasted £42m plus on the unitary [authority], £42m plus on the [St Dennis] incinerator and we are now proposing to risk a great deal more on the joint venture,’ he explained further. ‘I am resigning from the cabinet today as I feel that I have pushed the cause of retaining council control over joint ventures as far as I can with the cabinet.’

The £117m incinerator planned for St Dennis in Mid Cornwall has been dogged by legal challenges, and a recent suggestion to independently assess alternative waste schemes was rejected by the cabinet on financial grounds.

The six districts of Cornwall County Council were abolished in April 2009 to create the present unitary authority of Cornwall Council, but the process drew widespread criticism—and wasted expenditure—when the public demanded that the new logo and motto be dropped and the old one kept.

As Cornish politicians have pressed for devolved government, along the lines of the National Assembly for Wales, the council is entertaining grandiose plans for a National Theatre of Cornwall, a National Library of Cornwall and a major sports stadium. In addition, Cornwall Council is backing plans for the Cornish to be recognised as a National Minority in the UK, and is pursuing a Protocol of Cooperation between the regions of Cornwall and Brittany to apply for European Union—that is, taxpayer—funding.

Cllr Currie fears that plans to part privatise services such as libraries, benefits and payroll—involving contracts worth £300m a year—will not deliver good value for the taxpayer. ‘The financial risks involved with the rush into the new Joint Venture proposals are unacceptable,’ he says in his resignation email. An independent councillor agrees: ‘You cannot forget Jim has been in the inter-circle of the Cabinet, and was the Portfolio Holder for Finance so would know more than most.’

Cornwall Council attracted derision recently over its incompetent rubbish and recycling contracts. Council leader Alec Robertson faces a vote of no confidence on 16 October while a full-council debate on the joint venture plans takes place on 26 October.

‘We’re in a situation where Cornwall Council is becoming a laughing stock,’ said the leader of the council opposition party. ‘There’s an administration there now which has this bunker mentality, it’s completely out of touch.’

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