Tuesday, 22 January 2013

It was only a matter of time...

Anyone who has been following recent events at Cornwall Council will not have been overly surprised by Fiona Ferguson's resignation from the cabinet today.

Many of us were slightly disappointed by the manner of it, however. I was sitting in the same scrutiny meeting as the Leader, Jim Currie, when Cllr Ferguson sent her email. I, and others with laptops or iPads, therefore knew about the move long before the Leader. He had to wait for an officer to come in with a printout of the email. It's disappointing, even discourteous, not to at least make sure the addressee of a resignation gets it before everyone else.

Whatever your view of the reason given for Cllr Ferguson going (I'll blog on that in a bit), we all knew it was coming. One Tory backbencher described the lie detector issue to me as a 'fig leaf'. She has been at war with the leadership ever since she was appointed to the role back in November. After admitting that she was under instruction from Tory central office as group leader to try to seek a council tax freeze, on Tuesday last week she announced she would be doing so at the budget cabinet meeting. But when that took place the next day she seemed reticent to propose the move. Perhaps she had realised that a freeze was unlikely to be possible without front line service cuts. Perhaps it was because she knew she didn't have the votes behind her. As it turned out, only one other cabinet member backed her stance and the majority (the majority of Conservatives even) voted for a rise.

And so we now have three Conservative groups at County Hall - the Currie Cabal; the Ferguson Faithful and the Robertson Rebels, if you like. What you don't have is a strong cabinet all pulling in the same direction trying to do their best for the people of Cornwall at a very difficult time for the authority.

What we won't be getting is a replacement for Fiona. Cllr Currie has announced that he will be taking on the role himself, rather than trying to find a third finance portfolio holder in just over two months.

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