Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Cabinet minds are closed on 'right to buy' debate

It seems that ordinary Cornwall Council members are being ignored once again as the leadership bunker avoids any attempt at consultation over a significant issue of concern to lots of residents.

The issue this time is council housing and the Government's proposed new 'right to buy' legislation. There are some pretty strong views both for an against this proposal - as demonstrated by my debate with Sarah Newton MP on the local Daily Politics show a couple of weeks ago. But all these were ignored as the council chose to send in a technocratic response and merely copied it to councillors for information.

With the current 'Leader and Cabinet' system of governance, the final decision on what the council's response should be was always going to be restricted to just the executive. But on an issue as important as this, it would have been appropriate to allow a discussion in full council next week on the issue and to incorporate some of the views of members in the response. My Lib Dem colleagues Geoff Brown and Nigel Pearce have proposed a motion for debate anyway and I hope that it elicits a range of views.

Alternatively, Cllr Kaczmarek could have presented a draft response to last week's meeting of the Communities scrutiny committee - which oversees housing. But, despite having a number of important debates on the agenda, the right to buy wasn't one of them and Cllr Kaczmarek decided that another engagement was more pressing than explaining his thoughts on these policy matters.

What annoys me the most is that I know Cllr Kaczmarek has strong views on the issue of the right to buy. One of the key issues is the likely diminution of the council housing stock. With 23,000 families on the housing list, I would think Cornwall's first priority should be finding a roof for these people, not selling off the houses we have. There are claims that the authority could replace every house sold, but I know Cllr Kaczmarek doesn't think this is possible. There is also concern about where replacement houses would be (selling a house in Bude and replacing it in Penzance doesn't really help Bude).

I hope that the Council Chairman allows a debate on this motion next Tuesday. I'd welcome the chance to hear from those who take a different stance from myself. Unfortunately, for the cabinet, it seems that their minds are closed.

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