Cllr Jim Currie’s letter to other Cornwall Council members has let the cat out of the bag. The privatisation of council services to one of two corporations he describes as a “smash and grab raid” and a “bonanza” for either BT or the American CSC at the expense of the Cornish taxpayer.
Jim’s particular objection is the last minute inclusion of council procurement in the deal – a decision made by the Chief Executive Kevin Lavery and Council Leader Alec Robertson, while Cllr Currie was on vacation. To quote Cllr Currie:
“The incorporation of procurement into the Joint Venture has increased its financial scope from £22m a year for Shared Services to include the huge procurement budget recognised by the service officially as influence over £436m annually. The latter is a step change of potentially 20 times the original scope and exceeding the projected limits. Giving £4.3 billion of spending power away to a proxy over 10 years is a dangerous business.”
Cllr Currie goes on to say:
“The promise of jobs in six to seven years’ time indeed may well happen. Unfortunately, information freely available to all members would indicate a distinct possibility that each job could cost the Cornish taxpayer one million pounds.”
A million pounds a job is around five times Mr Lavery's salary.
In my experience Cllr Currie has been entirely consistent. As Deputy Leader whose responsibilities include Corporate Resources (finance) he has often been voice of prudence, reminding members of the sometimes dire state of Council finance brought about by the 29% cut from central government. It has been far from an easy job at times. He was very brave not to vote with the rest of the Cabinet when Cornwall Council voted not to proceed with this deal two weeks ago. I would add that Cllr Currie is also, quite possibly the hardest working member of the Council. He attends more meetings than any other member – usually just to listen.
As the man in charge of finance Cllr Currie has been more closely involved than any other elected member in the two year process of what is euphemistically described as a “Strategic Partnership.” As a cabinet member he is privy to the fine print of the secret deal which is withheld from other members on the dubious grounds of “commercial confidentiality.” To my knowledge no other member has even seen a business plan – including myself as a member of Corporate Resources Overview and Scrutiny Committee and of the Shared Services Single Issue Panel for over nine months.
Like the majority of elected Councillors I do not believe that, as it stands, this deal can possibly be the interests of the Cornish taxpayer. Cllr Andrew Wallis’s public petition nears 5000 signatories, Cllr Robertson is facing a vote of no confidence on October 16th and now the Deputy Leader has exposed the enormous financial risks involved.
It is time to slow down and consider the alternatives.