Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Conservative empty chairs during Cornwall's crucial budget debates

Various Conservatives in Cornwall have been in the media making loud noises about draft budget proposals affecting libraries and leisure centres. But when push comes to shove, they don't even turn up to the debates that matter.

North Cornwall candidate (and councillor) Scott Mann invited a cabinet minister to visit a leisure centre last week on the pretence that its future is under threat. He promised to do something about it. (In fact there are no proposals to close leisure centres).

Today, the council committee tasked with examining the proposed leisure budget and service changes discussed the proposals and Scott Mann was conspicuous by his absence. In fact, no Conservative had anything to say on the subject.

Another senior Conservative, current group leader Cllr Fiona Ferguson, is a member of the committee that met today. She has also complained outside the council about proposals affecting libraries and leisure centres. Yet she walked out before the debate on libraries and leisure centres started, leaving an empty chair.

Although the council is committed to listening to every point of view and we have the widest ever consultation taking place, there is no doubt that councillors have a privileged position in this debate. When it comes to the budget discussions, councillors can propose alternatives and require a vote. But the Conservatives seem to have forgotten this. They seem happy to spout off in the press whilst refusing to use their chances to actually do something about it.

Nobody thinks that the current budget proposals are ideal. None of us got elected wanting to make front line service cuts. But we have to meet the £196 million target by the end of 2018/19. The proposals that have been put forward are just that - proposals. We want to hear alternatives - even if we end up disagreeing with them. The Conservatives are the self-styled opposition on Cornwall Council, yet they are refusing to put forward any alternatives. I think they are letting down their voters and, indeed, the wider population of Cornwall.

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