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Jim Currie’s resignation 10 October, 2012

Posted by Jeremy Rowe in News.
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Jim Currie’s sensational resignation last night proves, among other things, that Alec Robertson’s problems are not – as he may have tried to portray them – the result of party political manoeuvring by those outside his Tory/Indie coalition. Quite the reverse – they demonstrate the rot that has taken over the heart of his administration.

Cllr Currie is a former Leader of the Conservative Group at County Hall and was, until yesterday, the Deputy Leader of the Council and the Cabinet Member in charge of the Council’s finances. Yet his resignation letter (reproduced below) points to the fundamental lack of trust that has gripped the administration for the bulk of their time in office.

In a damning paragraph (referring to the Leader’s apparent softening of his position on privatisation) Jim writes: “I welcome your somewhat ambiguous offer to respect Full Council decisions on the 23rd October but I know you will never let go”.

When your own hand-picked Deputy smells a rat you know something’s up.

The importance of the No Confidence motion on the 16th grows greater by the day. As Jude Robinson writes, Lib Dem, Indie, MK, Labour and even Tory Councillors are working together on Shared Services and the No Confidence motion, not for any narrow political advantage, but because there is now a clear understanding that all of this chaos has to stop.

The personality clashes in this saga point to a Leadership which has lost control and is now completely out of touch, but let’s not forget that this is also the administration that tried to dismantle Localism, demonstrated a wilfully casual attitude to democracy and presided over the chaos of the new waste collection contract, to name just a few failures.

The growing view among Councillors of all flavours is that Tuesday 16th October represents the best and only opportunity to stop the rot.

Here is the full text of Jim Currie’s resignation letter:

Alec

I am resigning from the Cabinet today as I feel that I have pushed the cause of retaining Council control over Joint Ventures as far as I can with the Cabinet.

The financial risks involved with the rush into the new Joint Venture proposals are unacceptable. The JV is basically too large to control. We have wasted £42m+ on the Unitary, £42m+ on the Incinerator and we are now proposing to risk a great deal more on the Joint Venture.

I welcome your somewhat ambiguous offer to respect Full Council decisions on the 23rd October but I know you will never let go.

I could not leave local government with billions of pounds of Cornish Taxpayers money at risk and on my conscience.

Alec, this matter has never been personal.

Yours aye

Jim 

Waste chaos rumbles on 19 April, 2012

Posted by Jeremy Rowe in Local Matters, News.
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Complaints from individuals continue to roll into me regarding missed rubbish collections nearly three weeks after the implementation of the new waste contract between Cory and Conservative-led Cornwall Council. The good news is that the majority of the complaints I have received have been dealt with after being referred to the relevant people. The bad news is that the problems show no signs of abating just yet.

It seems the main cause of the issues has been the moving around of collection staff who had previously been used to covering specific routes. Having been moved to another area, the staff – through no fault of their own – have had to learn the routes from scratch. This has led to the wrong vehicles being led down narrow lanes and some areas being forgotten entirely. It doesn’t appear that there has been any effective monitoring of this state of affairs by the Conservative-led administration.

There has been little response from the Tory leadership of the Council beyond a series of inadequate comments about “teething troubles”. Rubbish collection is the most tangible benefit people receive from their Council Tax and when this most basic of functions falls over people are justifiably angry. It boils down to a test of competence and the Tories are failing it badly.

I have written to the Leader of the Council and I reproduce the text below.

Dear Alec,

You and I are both aware that the new waste and recycling contract for Cornwall is a major undertaking. Everyone expected some teething problems in the form of missed collections, but trusted that these would be cleared up with a smile and an apology.

What has transpired in Cornwall since 2nd April is, I would suggest, of a different order.

Not only have there been thousands of missed collections, but the call centre has been jammed, thousands of homes have not received their new recycling containers, promises of action within 48 hours have been consistently broken, the wrong collection vehicles have been sent to narrow streets, lower levels of service have been imposed on residents without consultation or information and piles of uncollected refuse have littered our streets. In short, I believe that this entire transition has been mishandled.

Given the failures on this project, I would invite you to do three things:

First, that you and the council should stop pretending that these are only a few teething troubles and acknowledge that there are very large areas of Cornwall which have been failed by the new contract. Please issue a formal apology for these failures;

Second, we need to sort these problems out. I and my group have always been ready to assist in any way we can, but the pretence that there are no real problems and the lack of information is hindering moves to put the system right;

Finally, as a Council, we need to understand what went wrong. Was this a failure in preparation by either the Council or Cory? Why were so many collections missed and why could the call centre not cope? The latter is particularly important given that this is a service that we are considering selling to other public sector organisations. The waste and recycling service may be large, but it is hardly the only big contract let by this council. We need to ensure that the same chaos does not affect service changes in the future. I would therefore ask you to support my call for a full inquiry – led by the EP&E scrutiny committee – into the contract change and to ensure that officers and cabinet members make available any and all information requested by that committee.

Cabinet members are undoubtedly right when they say that there are aspects of the change which have gone extremely smoothly and we should recognise these successes. But we must also properly acknowledge the failings, apologise for them and ensure that they cannot happen again.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,

Jeremy

 

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