Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Jan Powell writes...

"I am releasing this public statement through my solicitor in order to put on record the way that I have been treated by the leader of Cornwall Council, Mr Alec Robertson.

"It is widely known that Councillor Robertson reversed his earlier nomination of me to membership, and therefore by default chair, of the Health and Adult Overview Scrutiny Committee. What is not so widely known is the reasons given by Councillor Robertson. That has perhaps left the impression of some perceived wrongdoing on my part. I wish to take this opportunity of putting the record straight.

"Councillor Robertson informed me of his decision in a letter written from him on Cornwall Council headed notepaper in his capacity as Leader of the Council. One of the main reasons he gave amounted to the fact that he was calling into question my ability to act impartially given the fact that I have an adult disabled daughter who is a service user of provision made by the Council. He thought that this might mean that I would be unable to consider the need for cuts by Cornwall Council in an unbiased way. I find this allegation both deeply distressing and offensive at the same time.

"To suggest that parents of disabled people, or indeed anyone having a close relative receiving or likely to receive a provision in the future, are unable to put that to one side when making rational decisions is a shocking view to hold. I am concerned for the principle this advocates when there exists a very structured process in Cornwall Council to allow people in this position to understand their obligations and to act responsibly and objectively.

"I have therefore asked Councillor Robertson to apologise personally. I have also asked Cornwall Council to apologise given the fact that the offending letter was purportedly sent on its behalf.

"Cornwall Council has now disassociated itself from the letter making it clear that it had no knowledge of the letter which was written by Councillor Robertson personally and which therefore should neither have been written on their notepaper nor through their resource.

"I have received no apology from Councillor Robertson and he has indicated that he will not do so.

"It is clear that I cannot work with Councillor Robertson nor his party. I have therefore returned to the Liberal Democrats in order that I can continue serving the public to the best of my ability."

BBC Radio Cornwalll has so far been unable to contact Mr Robertson, but he has previously said he was unable to comment because it is an "internal party matter".

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Bolted horses and stable doors

Thursday sees a more-interesting-than-usual meeting of Cornwall Council's Corporate Resources Overview and Scrutiny Committee, which will consider a detailed report on "Telegraph-gate" - the public relations disaster about extravagant credit card spending sprees which turned out to be all smoke and no fire.

The report urges "robust action" to make sure that everyone knows what they are supposed to be doing, but casts no blame on any individual. And in the best example of corporate understatement I've seen for a while, says: "policy documents could benefit from a refresh."

A question of trust

I've just commissioned myself to write this blog post, and I can tell it's going to be really good. And definitely not a cheap, cynical joke at the expense of Cornwall Council, who commissioned a report into its own Adult Social Care - a report which concluded the department is now "performing well."

I've asked the council for a list of other self-commissioned reports, and will be particularly keen to find those which are critical of the council. To be fair, the Care Quality Commission no longer assesses councils, and is introducing a system of "local accounts" whereby councils commission their own reports.

Are we feeling confident yet?

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Failed Isles of Scilly link wasted nearly £4m

Back in May, Cornwall Council said it had spent more than £700,000 in pursuit of its "Option A" for the redevelopment of Penzance harbour. The council has now published more details:
"Overall the IOSL scheme has cost £3.850m, this is funded from £1.317m
of third party funding and £2.533m of Council funding."

None of this is made up

Cornwall Council compensation payments to school pupils for personal injuries in the last financial year:

  • Fell from workbench when attending lecture - £30,450

  • Stone thrown by child unintentionally hit claimant - £10,000

  • Gate fell onto claimant when attempted to climb - £2,100

  • Splinter injury when sliding on wooden bench - £2,500

  • Teaching assistant kicked a ball which hit claimant - £2,000

Source: FoI disclosure log
No doubt the council's insurers advised it was cheaper to pay up, rather than risk a court case.

Yet another one of those pesky FOI questions...

Please can you give details of how much the council has spent on general refreshments, and what type of refreshments were bought, during the period April 1, 2010 to April 1, 2011?
Teas & coffee £41,106
Working lunches & buffet £30,230
Members' refreshments £18,460
Civic functions £17,881
Milk £967
Total £108,644

Monday, 11 July 2011

Bude Free School looks less likely

Plans for a 750-pupil Bude Independent Grammar School have failed to pass the first hurdle at the Department for Education and are not included in the first wave of applications selected to progress to either the pre-opening stage or the development of a business case to create a free school. The idea originated with Yorkshire Nationwide Schools, whose Facebook page has yet to reflect the latest DfE thinking. I've asked YNS if it plans to re-submit its Bude proposals for consideration in the next wave of free school applications, and will report the answer when I get it.

Friday, 1 July 2011

St Dennis incinerator decision goes to court

Residents of the china clay area have launched their legal challenge to the Secretary of State's approval of the St Dennis incinerator project. The first phase will be heard in the High Court in the next few weeks and has the potential to become a full-blown Judicial Review. Will Cornwall Council go ahead with construction despite this new uncertainty? You bet.