Bosses will study manifesto after failed council rebellion
By Truro People | Thursday, May 12, 2011, 09:00
CORNWALL COUNCIL bosses are “addressing” concerns raised in Tory leadership contender Fiona Ferguson’s manifesto.
Council leader Alec Robertson survived by 24 votes to 18 when the Truro Trehaverne Tory councillor attempted to oust him, citing a “culture of secrecy” and claiming he was too close to chief executive Kevin Lavery.
Mrs Ferguson’s five-page manifesto said the leader took the press and public for fools and wasted money by proposing to expand the Cabinet with paid but non-voting members.
In the document – distributed to all Conservative councillors – Mrs Ferguson wrote: “Major decisions are being taken by Cabinet without consultation or discussion with Conservative group members.
“The Cabinet system is no excuse for not doing this.”
She said creating new paid but non-voting members appeared a deal done behind closed doors.
Conservative councillor Armand Toms, Cabinet member for adult care and support, said: “The Cabinet are talking about how we address this and we’ll come up with something in the near future.”
Mr Toms said he did not know whether the proposal for extra Cabinet members would be implemented, but in his own portfolio area he advocates doing the same thing for no pay. “We spend a lot of money and I want to check it’s well spent,” he said. “We don’t get everything right in Cornwall and probably never will, but in some cases we will be able to do things better and save money.”
Conservative councillor Olive Eggleston e-mailed all councillors with concerns about the plans to appoint ten non-voting Cabinet members at a cost of £8,000 each per year. They would assist existing portfolio-holders who receive £16,700 on top of the basic members’ allowance.
“If Cabinet members are overworked or stressed, could they not pay for clerical assistance from their additional allowances?” she asked.
“If there’s money to spare then it should be used to benefit local communities.”
Mrs Ferguson also claimed the council could afford to cut down on the volume of its communications but improve its quality.
“We should not take the public (or the press) for fools,” she wrote. “No one thinks that putting a one stop shop in a library is ‘an exciting new opportunity’. There is a growing perception that ‘pet’ projects are being promoted by the chief executive with some Cabinet members behind closed doors and these policies are being driven forward without proper consultation or accountability.
“The deciding factor in my decision to stand as group leader has been the leader’s approach to challenge, which has been to try to do more deals behind closed doors and to expect a blanket mandate from the group to carry on.”
Mr Toms said: “There are people who are not happy, but that’s the balance of life. In my own department we’re making big strides to save money and provide more services.”
Secretary of the Conservative group, Steve Double, who lost to Scott Mann in the election for deputy leader, said the views expressed by Mrs Ferguson were, although shared by other members, not those of the great majority.
Mr Robertson will announce his new Cabinet on Tuesday.