Wednesday, 27 April 2011

What Alec Robertson should do next...

If the rumours are to be believed, Alec Robertson has beaten off his opponent and will remain as Leader of Cornwall Council.

But what impact will the challenge to his leadership have and what should be his response going forward?

Obviously, as a member of the opposition, he is going to take anything I say with a pinch of salt, but it might be worth the Conservatives considering what other parties think as well as their own internal difficulties.

We don't yet know the level of opposition in the final reckoning, but I'm guessing that Fiona Ferguson amassed more than just a handful of votes. If so, Cllr Robertson will be under pressure to make some changes no his Cabinet - perhaps ditching Jim Currie or Lance Kennedy and replacing them with Ferguson herself, Chris Ridgers or Ray Tovey (the last two both very good performers blighted by the capacity to actually think things through).

The Leader will also be under pressure to communicate more with those outside the Cabinet. And if he does so then I hope that such communication is with councillors across the chamber rather than simply with his own backbenchers. To be fair to Alec, his communication is getting a lot better. But it still appears at times that there are only 10 people who matter in the council - the cabinet members - and the rest of us can go hang.

There are many who believe that the council would function a lot better if we returned to the old committee system of governance rather than the Cabinet model. I'm not yet totally convinced on this. But if Cllr Robertson wants to avoid the pressure to change systems as soon as the law allows, he will have to make this option work far better than it has to date. For all that the invitation is always there to visit the hallowed turf of the 4th floor at County Hall, there is perceived to be a definite 'them and us' situation with the Cabinet and Directors on the one hand and everybody else on the other.

The other major gripe of the Tory dissidents, as I understand it, is that the key decisions are taken by Chief Executive Kevin Lavery. What might help would be if we were to understand a bit more about what the current administration is actually trying to achieve. In 2009 we had the Tory manifesto. It didn't say a lot, but at least it existed. But when the Conservatives went into coalition with the Independents, we asked what their programme for government was. There was deafening silence until Cllr Robertson declared that it was the new Council's business plan. For the uninitiated, a Council's business plan is a horrendous tome of officer-speak which talks in broad platitudes about strategic vision. In short, it says almost nothing about anything that those who exist outside County Hall can get a handle on. It is also completely un-judgeable given that it sets almost no real targets.

Perhaps one of the benefits of this challenge to his leadership is that Alec will finally get around to explaining what his administration is all about. We can tell from what they have done that they are about sacrificing core front line services and vulnerable people in favour of 'new', 'innovative' and 'iconic' projects which might possibly turn a profit in ten years time but are utterly out of step with the real needs of residents at a time of economic hardship. Don't get me wrong, there are many good things which this administration has done. But they appear to have no vision other than the management-speak agenda of their beloved consultants.

I very much doubt that I would agree wholeheartedly with a Conservative-Independent vision if one were to be produced. But at least then the people of Cornwall could see where we are meant to be going and judge accordingly. As things stand, I think the Conservative backbenches are as mystified as the rest of us are and that, at the end of the day, is the root cause of the recent rebellion.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lance Kennedy is a leech upon Bodmin- Ann Kerridge and Pat Rogerson do a much better job.