Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Cabinet told to think again on severance scheme

Cornwall Council had its first call-in meeting today and this resulted in the first reference back to Cabinet.

Under council rules, most decisions are taken by the Cabinet rather than the full council. Ordinary members have no say in the decision itself but can object if they feel that the process for taking a decision was faulty in some way. It's a bit like a judicial review.

In this instance, members of the Corporate Resources Scrutiny Committee objected to the decision on introducing a new severance policy for staff at the council. The Cabinet chose to harmonise the seven old council policies (sensible and needed) and agreed a new policy.

However, there was significant concern from the unions that they were not consulted on the change and from members that they were not involved and that the Cabinet had not considered significant alternatives. And so the decision was called-in. It emerged during the meeting that the reason that the new HR panel was not consulted was that its terms of reference were so badly drafted that they could not be asked for their thoughts and that the 'consultation' with the public was in fact a 'finger in the air' exercise with absolutely no consultation.

Despite all these failings, Cabinet Member Jim Currie said that he believed that the procedure followed was sensible and robust and that the resulting policy was a good one. Scrutiny Committee members weren't allowed to judge the policy itself, but they clearly rejected Jim's assurance that the procedure was good by voting unanimously to demand that the Cabinet re-consider.

I'm very glad to have been a part of that decision and hope that we will now have a chastened Cabinet which will take future decisions in a more open way and following proper consultation.

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