Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Abolishing Cornwall Council panels - Cllr Hicks 'does a Lansley'

The big row scheduled for today's Cornwall Council Cabinet meeting didn't happen as the hugely controversial proposal to abolish some panels - including the Parking Policy Panel - was shelved as Cabinet Member Graeme Hicks did an impression of Andrew Lansley and suggested a pause for reflection.

This was in response to the responses by ordinary members of the Council who were (almost) universally disapproving of the move which was seen by many as a direct attack on Cllr Andrew Wallis, Chair of the Parking Panel, who has had a number of run ins with the council leadership over the past few months.

So there will be further consultation on the subject - which hopefully look at the way backbench members are consulted and involved in a whole range of decision making.

It was also announced by the Leader that councillors will now receive a weekly update of what the council is saying by way of press releases and how we are portrayed in the press and a monthly report on what we are doing. It seems that the message conveyed to him by angry backbenchers from his party about the lack of information coming down from the fourth floor at County Hall has had an effect.

It was also agreed that there will be progress made with appointing 'Cabinet Support Members'. I've speculated in the past that this is simply a way to buy off Conservative rebels by giving them pseudo-jobs. Nothing could be further from the truth, said the Leader. Instead, it is because the Cabinet are all over-worked and need assistance. Of course, if the cabinet members were all up to the task they were appointed to do then there might be less of a need for assistants.

The role of Cabinet Support Members is, as yet, very poorly defined - something that was acknowledge by the Leader. And so a job description will be written before a remuneration panel decides how much they will be paid.

As one councillor pointed out, it seems very wrong that we should be asking council staff to work harder for the same (or less) pay yet as soon as the Cabinet feels it needs more support the money can be found. Cllr Julian German suggested that it would be good value for money. Cllr Robertson said that he would make sure there was no additional cost. Who is right? We shall have to wait and see.

Meanwhile, key decisions on large areas of council services were also made...

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