Monday, 29 September 2014

Cornwall Conservatives go AWOL on the budget (again)

Cornwall Council is currently deciding on its budget for the next four years. The council needs to save £196 million and the authority cannot look the same again. It is, without doubt, the biggest challenge that has faced the council since it was founded in 2009.

We are determined to make sure that everyone has their chance to comment on the budget proposals and we are genuinely listening to the views that people express. So on Wednesday we start a series of 19 public meetings, we meet tomorrow with the partners we do business with and we are holding meetings with individual groups to discuss the areas of the budget proposals that affect them. We are also engaging online and meeting with staff.

But the biggest say on the budget goes to the elected members of the council. There are 123 councillors who will take the ultimate decision on the budget decision. They have the right to propose amendments, to accept or to reject it.

You might think therefore that budget is a vaguely important part of what the council is all about and that councillors might have turned up to have their say or just to listen and understand.

There have been 10 portfolio advisory committee (PAC) meetings to discuss the budget and a further discussion as part of the full council meeting. (There have also been other informal meetings but some members have made clear they don't agree with having any sort of informal meeting and they boycott them.)

But despite styling themselves the official opposition on the council, the Conservatives continue to absent themselves from most budget debates in stark contrast to Lib Dems, Independents, Labour, MK and even UKIP.

During the full council discussion of the budget last Tuesday, only 11 (out of 30) Conservatives were present and only two spoke.

Across all ten of the PAC meetings, only 12 individual Conservatives attended any meetings. There were three PAC meetings with no Conservative voting members of the committee present at all and one other where the only Conservative present left halfway.

So do the Conservatives care about the budget decisions facing Cornwall Council? And how do they think they are representing their voters by failing to turn up?

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