Friday, 18 January 2013

Hapless Fiona blunders into another row - UPDATED

Not content with falling out with half her Conservative colleagues, Cllr Fiona Ferguson is now at war with a group representing people with disabilities in Cornwall.

In the debate on council tax benefit on Tuesday, a number of councillors raised the issue of the effect of the cabinet proposal on disabled people in Cornwall. They quoted an email that councillors had received from Disability Cornwall. In rebuttal, Cllr Ferguson played the man not the ball and launched an extraordinary attack on the credibility of the group. She claimed that the chief executive was paid £60,000 per year and expressed doubt about the work that the group does.

In response, Steve Paget, Chair of Disability Cornwall, sent an email correcting the claims that Cllr Ferguson had made. He stated categorically that the benchmark for a chief executive of a group like theirs was £46k per year but that they could not afford to pay that amount and do not do so.

Far from taking Mr Paget at his word and apologising for misleading councillors, Cllr Ferguson renewed her attacks on the organisation. She claimed that the group's annual report had made the £60k claim and attacked the 'glossy magazine' produced by the group.

Mr Paget responded again to point out that the reference to £60k salaries is one required by the Charity Commission and had no link to any pay rates offered by his organisation. He also corrected Cllr Ferguson to tell her that the 'glossy magazine' is funded largely by adverts and only appears when the group has enough adverts to cover the costs.

Of course, all this row could have been avoided if Cllr Ferguson had bothered to talk to Disability Cornwall and find out the facts before launching her ad hominem attack. But even if she didn't do so, it would have been the decent thing to do if she apologised when first corrected. As things stand, it's yet another example of why the Lib Dems don't believe that she is fit to hold a position on the cabinet.

UPDATE - Cllr Ferguson has now issued what amounts to an apology to Disability Cornwall. Let's hope she will also make the same apology at the next council meeting.

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