Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Council picks slimmest joint venture

After many months of wrangling, Cornwall Council today voted in favour of the slimmest form of joint venture partnership which will see some services and staff handed over to a private company. But it is not yet certain that the move will go ahead as it will rely on more negotiations with BT and health organisations.

Councillors comprehensively voted against the 'full fat' version of the deal which would have seen vast swathes of services - including libraries, one stop shops and other front line services - handed over to BT.

For me, this was the crucial point. Ever since the expanded privatisation project was unveiled earlier this year I have been campaigning to exempt libraries and once stop shops from its scope. There is no money to be made for a private company in running these services and I feared that privatisation would only see a reduction in services. In addition, the chance to put some of Cornwall Council's services into post offices may still be on offer - but without the downside of having to hand over our libraries and library staff to a private company.

Unfortunately for my point of view, councillors also narrowly rejected the option of keeping services in house. The majority of Lib Dems voted for the in-house option and most Conservatives voted against.

That left us with one of a range of intermediate options. The one eventually picked was that involving the least handover of services possible. BT (assuming they are happy to continue with the project) will take over a narrow range of back office functions including IT and payroll. Crucially, this version will also allow the council to be involved in 'tele-care' and 'tele-health' projects which could bring new jobs to Cornwall.

I'm disappointed that the in-house option was defeated but am determined now to do what I can to make any new partnership work as well as possible.

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