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From a very disappointed leader

Graham Smith | 14:39 UK time, Sunday, 4 March 2012

To all members of Cornwall Council:

"Dear colleagues,

"Regrettably following the recent incidence of late payment of council tax and childish tweeting, this week has been another disappointing one for the reputation of Cornwall Council.

"Last week we were able to set a budget which protected frontline services and provided additional funding for innovative projects such as the Cornwall Bursary and the Housing Strategy.

"However, rather than being able to build on this positive news, we have spent the last few days being criticised over our handling of the Stadium for Cornwall project. As you know the main part of the report which went to the Environment and Economy Overview and Scrutiny Committee was considered in Part 2 because it contained commercially sensitive information relating to third parties. This was agreed by Members who sit on the scrutiny committee after advice from the legal team.

"I am, therefore, very disappointed that the report has been leaked to the press. We do not make the decision to put an item into Part 2 lightly. We have been accused by some of failing to be open and transparent - but the fact is that we try to discuss as much as possible in the public part of a meeting. There will, however, occasionally be times when we need to discuss an issue in private. This is not because we have something to hide but because it enables us to have open and frank discussions which rely for their value on access to and knowledge of confidential background information.

"The report on the Stadium contained financial information relating to private sector companies and other stakeholders. It also contained a number of appendices with details of earlier discussions which had been overtaken by subsequent events. Making the information public in this way has not only caused confusion, it has also potentially damaged our relationship with the key stakeholders involved in the project.

"Some Members have suggested we should be "putting the record straight" by commenting on the content of the confidential report. While I share your frustration at the some of the comments which have been made, I support the view of the Monitoring Officer that this could lead to a situation where anyone wishing to make confidential information public deliberately leaks it to the media and then claims that it should be made available to everyone because the media has it. This would put the Council in an impossible situation when making decisions on potentially sensitive issues.

"As I said earlier I am very disappointed that a Member has chosen to leak the report to the media and I know that nearly all of you share that disappointment. There is a clearly set out code of conduct governing the behaviour of all Members and releasing confidential information breaches this code. Members have a duty to make sure that they do not act in a way that damages the reputation of the authority and I feel very strongly that we all need to uphold the responsibility we've been privileged to be given.

"Earlier this week Carolyn sent out an update on the discussions with staff and unions over a new collective agreement. As you know last year's collective agreement made a significant contribution to our financial strategy with savings of more than £6m. There is no question that this helped to save jobs and to protect front line service delivery. I would like to thank the staff and unions for working with us to protect jobs and services.

"I am pleased that we have been able to sign another collective agreement. Carolyn's message set out the main elements of the agreement, which will include a lifting of the pay freeze from April 1st, with increments paid on 1 April and again next year. After that we are looking to introduce contribution related pay. It also includes changes to mileage rates for staff in mainly frontline roles who do substantial business miles with little or no choice over whether they use their own vehicle. There will also be a new standby and call out payment scheme and a lifting of the cap on the hourly rate for overtime.

"The new agreement is not about putting back everything that was taken away but will help us address the most serious issues arising from last year's agreement without compromising our financial strategy. It will also enable us to develop pay arrangements that a more direct connection between an employee's pay and their contribution, and better align the Council's reward arrangements with its business objectives.

"I would like to end by welcoming yesterday's announcement by Fire Minister Bob Neill that that the we have been awarded £1.8m by the Government to improve our fire control function.

"We know that our current control room needs upgrading and this funding will enable us to move forward with plans to co locate Fire Control, Lifeline Alarm, Public Realm CCTV and Command Centre functions in one place. Des Tidbury and his team will now be working with partners to develop a range of potential options, one of which could be creating a new purpose built centre in the Camborne, Pool, Redruth area. .

With best wishes

Alec Robertson CC
Cornwall Council



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