Privatisation and the Dead Duck Briefing
Today Cornwall Council held a confidential briefing on the proposed Joint Venture. Let’s face it, it is a form of privatisation and I’m not going to beat about the bush with that one.
The briefing was confidential but another councillor, Andrew Wallis, has confirmed what can and can’t be revealed and published it here. (I agree with most of what Andrew says but not the point about low skilled jobs. Not every job can be high skilled and having good entry level jobs with opportunity to move on would be a significant help to many people who are currently unemployed and have few qualifications.)
It was an interesting session and explained a lot. I’ve always said we have to consider this proposal seriously but we need evidence and figures to back up the reassurances and promises we have been given. The great mystery now is why councillors have been excluded for so long from this process. Just look where that has got us.
There are just a few points I think it is worth considering.
Cornwall Council has spent huge amounts of time and a lot of money (£1.8 million) on this JV but the way it has been driven through has created tensions and mistrust that could mean this is rejected. £1.8 million is a lot of money for a dead duck.
We now have only one company interested in bidding for this venture. How can Cornwall Council put a tender out to one company and be sure of testing the market and getting the best value? is it even legal according to the constitution?
To their credit, BT have done a lot of work over the past two years with officers of the council. They are still here but now, at the very end of the process it looks very uncertain. The Council has not even considered other options properly and it would be wrong to go for this just because it is on the table when we don’t know what other alternatives may deliver.
It would also be politically outrageous to award a contract that commits the next council – after elections – to major change and risk without a democratic mandate.
Will BT hang around or cut their losses? Will Cornwall lose out what could be a very positive offer because of the way this has been mishandled?
I could bang on about democracy and accountability and throw in a ‘told you so’ or two but you get the gist.
Hats off too to Stuart Roden, the local Unison Union organiser, who has worked with officers and the companies in negotiations on the proposals. His presentation to the briefing today was excellent, not ideologically opposed but with healthy scepticism, incisive words of advice and an acknowledgment that the Council has to consider all options. The coalition’s austerity is not only causing great hardship but damaging our economy, so more cuts are on the way.