Leader of the Council removed in no confidence vote – new Leader elected
In a dramatic day at County Hall on 16 October, the Leader, Alec Robertson, Conservative, was voted out of office and a new Leader, Jim Currie, also Conservative, was voted in.
For the past 18 months, Cornwall Council has been in discussions with a few private sector companies about the possible outsourcing of some of the Council's services. This is not, in itself, new or surprising. We already have contracts with private sector companies for services such as waste collection, waste disposal, street cleaning, much of adult social care is delivered through private contractors, etc. However, what became clear over time with the latest proposal was the scale of the potential new deal and the fundamental changes that could occur to the control of council services. Services such as benefits payments, payroll, One Stop Shops, libraries and even procurement could be handed over to the private sector company in a 10 year deal. Because of the flexibility allowed in what the companies might bid for and the commercial confidentiality considerations, most councillors were not kept fully informed of the scale of the proposals. However, there was growing unease amongst many backbench members.
In September, a motion was passed by Full Council demanding that the process be stopped until it could be shown that the majority of members supported it. The Cabinet decided to press ahead with the deal, which, constitutionally, they were entitled to do. The only way then to stop the process was to remove the Leader of the Council. Such a proposal required at least a third of the members (minimum 41) to sign a requisition. This hurdle was crossed and an Extraordinary Meeting of the Council called for 16 October to debate this proposal. I was the proposer of the motion and opened the debate. After a heated two hours, a vote was taken and by 63 votes to 49, the proposal to remove the Leader was passed.
What then followed was a few hours of chaos as the Conservative and Independent groups tried to agree upon who they would put forward as the new Leader. The majority of the Conservatives refused to back Jim Currie, the Conservative deputy leader who had honourably resigned from the Cabinet the previous week in protest at the direction of the Cabinet on this matter. Eventually, the Conservatives put forward an Independent, Neil Burden. I proposed Jim Currie and this was seconded by a Liberal Democrat. In the recorded vote that followed, Jim won by 49 votes to 46 through a combination of votes from members of all parties.