Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Blue on Blue - Cornwall Council cabinet at war

It was war at Cornwall Council's cabinet this morning as Conservative and Independent members rowed among themselves about their budget proposals. Chief target was Fiona Ferguson, Cabinet Member for Finance, who announced that she would not be supporting the budget proposals for which she is responsible. Liberal Democrats have said that Cllr Ferguson's position is untenable.

As I have blogged before, Cllr Ferguson says that she is taking her national party's line and wants to see a council tax freeze. This appears to have been the outcome of a Tory group meeting last week. But today she admitted that such a freeze might not be possible.

Independent cabinet member Mark Kaczmarek was not impressed that Cllr Ferguson was toeing the party line:
"We should not be seeking to impose Westminster political party priorities on Cornwall Council" 
Asked why she disagreed with her own budget, Cllr Ferguson said:
"It can't be said that I agree with the budget because I was on holiday when it was sent out"
Apparently the idea that a local authority might be compiling a budget in December and January came as a shock to the finance cabinet member.

Cllr Ferguson has also angered her cabinet colleagues by announcing the areas where she thinks savings could be made (economic development, tourism and the chief executive's department) on the radio without discussing these with the relevant portfolio holders.

Even without a council tax freeze, Council Leader Jim Currie admitted today that the Conservative-Independent administration:
"will be leaving a £21m black hole and 5% council tax rise next year"
The Council's cabinet eventually agreed by seven votes to nil with two abstentions to approve the draft budget for recommendation to full council. That budget proposal includes a 1.97% increase in council tax. The two abstentions were Finance portfolio holder Fiona Ferguson and Economy and Regeneration portfolio holder Steve Rushworth.

Lib Dem group leader Jeremy Rowe said this:
“We are forced to ask how Cllr Ferguson can remain in the cabinet when she disagrees so completely with major aspects of Cornwall Council policy, including those within her own portfolio. Given that it is the Leader himself who is now writing and promoting the budget it may be that he could save some money by sacking Cllr Ferguson and using her special responsibility allowance to avoid some of the cuts.”

No comments: