Businesses call on Cornwall Council to back £300m privatisation bid
Privatisation plans which have dominated Cornwall Council, sparked the sacking of its leader and prompted a mass walk-out from the cabinet, are back on the agenda.
The so-called shared service joint venture with telecom giant BT, estimated to be worth £300 million, is again set to make headlines as councillors are presented with a range of fresh options.
Cabinet members were last night still waiting to see the officers' report overseen by chief executive Kevin Lavery in response to members' demands for a fuller list of potential options.
A business organisation has written to leader Jim Currie warning that the political upheaval could have a "negative effect on the progress of the partnership proposals".
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But following the anger directed towards the previous cabinet over its refusal to back down, senior councillors now say they will abide by the wishes of the full council.
The Cornwall Business Partnership (CBP), which includes BT among its ranks, said it was created more than ten years ago to "drive forward investment and economic growth".
It raised concerns about the plans, saying: "From our understanding of the project, the proposals include very significant job creation."
In a statement, the CBP listed benefits of the scheme, some of which are disputed by opponents of the plans.
They include a claimed guarantee of 500 full-time jobs, £60 million savings from core services and £89 million from improved procurement.
CBP Chairman Thelma Sorensen said there were "service improvements on the table, such as Telehealth and the extension of Tel-monitoring for the chronically ill around the county". She added: "In the light of the cost of supporting the increasing aging population we have here, any investment in this area must surely be welcomed.
"Shared costs must be seen as a way forward in times of economic stringency and the fact that the council would be working with the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust, Community Health and the Cornwall Partnership Foundation Trust is, put quite simply, a benefit that cannot be dismissed."
Cabinet member for economy and regeneration Stephen Rushworth said he was awaiting the report, which would be discussed by the full council next week.
Andrew Wallis, the independent councillor for Porthleven and Helston, who spearheaded moves to debate the plans, said he had "never heard" of the CBP despite receiving petitions from across the county in his role as chairman of the parking policy group.
"We still haven't seen the detailed proposals from BT but of the 500 jobs, the company admitted 181 came from redeployment," he added.
"I have always wanted the council to fully investigate all the options and only then will we have an understanding of which is the best.
"In my opinion the council seems to be in favour of an in-house option – there are encouraging signs that this can produce savings."