Cornwall County Council leader is voted out over private sector partnership plan
THE leader of Cornwall Council has been ousted in a vote of no confidence.
In a day of high political drama yesterday the old leadership was swept away by the slimmest of margins.
Just one vote sealed the fate of Conservative Alec Robertson, who lost a motion of no confidence.
Some 62 votes – just over half the council – were needed to carry the motion. The final tally was 63, a significant number above the 49 who had voted against and paving the way for Cllr Jim Currie, the leader's former deputy, to seize power by just three votes.
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The issue of a controversial joint venture with a private sector partner to run key services such as benefits administration and personnel, which had seen Mr Robertson consigned to the back benches of the council chamber, was still a live one, Cllr Currie said.
However Cllr Currie rejected the idea that it was this alone which had propelled the fall of his predecessor.
"I don't think it is just about the joint venture, it was about public dissatisfaction with full council."
He said that his public dissent over the matter had "touched" a nerve. "This is a political world and it's not all sweetness and light."
The debate was watched by 4,400 people on the internet and trended as the third biggest issue in the UK on Twitter.
After just over two hours of frequently fractious debate, the numbers said it all.
Cllr Robertson had excused himself from the debate at the onset and afterwards refused to answer questions, saying simply "no comment."
In the immediate aftermath was a rush of four resignations from the cabinet.
In August, Cornwall Council's cabinet ignored opposition to press ahead with plans to sign an agreement with a private firm to establish a new company. A petition set up to force the matter back to the council chamber for a fresh debate soon passed the critical 5,000 threshold.
But then just last week Mr Robertson made the surprise announcement that his cabinet will scrap it if attempts to secure grass roots backing failed.
Deputy leader Cllr Currie then piled on the pressure by stepping down over the issue and airing scepticism of the promise. He was immediately named favourite as successor.