"This is not a u-turn, I'm just listening. There's no point the cabinet pushing through a policy that the majority of the council are against. That's doomed to fail."That was the Leader of the Council speaking on Radio Cornwall this morning to announce that he was, after all, prepared to accept the outcome of a vote of Cornwall's full council when it comes to deciding whether or not to press ahead with the privatisation of key services.
And, as well as not being a U-turn, it is also nothing to do with next week's vote of no confidence in his leadership, according to Cllr Robertson. Of course not. The Leader talked about saving jobs, but my colleague Jeremy Rowe hit the nail on the head when he said that the only jobs he is worrying about are his own and those of his colleagues in the County Hall bunker.
So why doesn't Cllr Robertson simply accept the vote that has already been taken on this very subject when the council voted clearly against the privatisation policy? According to the Leader this morning, councillors didn't have all the information and also that vote wasn't clear. He now wants to spend the next two weeks persuading people of the benefits of privatisation. It seems incredible that it takes a no-confidence vote to force him to start making his case. Why don't we have a council that genuinely gets out and listens to the residents and businesses of Cornwall all the time rather than simply when their backs are against the wall.
The Leader appears to be trying to set an extra threshold for this particular vote. Whereas every decision taken by the council to date has been on the basis of the majority of those who expressed a preference, he wants a higher threshold - an overall majority of all councillors - for this decision.
I've blogged about this before - it's arbitrary and anti-democratic. But Alec himself failed to stick to the line during the interview when he declared that:
"If a majority of the council aren't in favour of it then we won't go ahead."So instead of needing a super-majority against to stop privatisation, he seems to be declaring that he needs a super-majority in favour to go ahead. No doubt the carefully written press release will tell us what he should have said.
The other key line from this morning's interview was when the Leader said that the reason they had no Plan B and were putting all Cornwall's eggs in one basket because:
"We haven't fully considered all the alternatives"It's incredible isn't it. This is the future of some pretty fundamental council services and hundreds of jobs. Yet instead of fully considering a range of options and then picking the best, they have fixated on one particular outcome.
There is probably a lot of money to be saved by teaming up with the health service and other public bodies in Cornwall for back office functions. But is this best done simply by working with the health service or do we need a private sector partner to help us (and take money out of the system to satisfy their shareholders along the way)? We don't know because the public sector only alternative hasn't been fully worked up.