Privatisation – the fat lady has not sung yet

It is now Cornwall Council policy that there will be no joint venture with British Telecom unless a majority of councillors vote for it.  That does not mean that it will not happen – that decision is yet to be made.  Many Conservatives, some Lib Dems and  some Independents are in favour of the deal and over the next few weeks, I have no doubt that strenuous efforts will be made te persuade waverers and sceptics.

But it looks as if some people think the decision has already been taken in favour , according to this article in Computer Weekly. I haven’t seen the document referred to, which claims that BT has already named Cornwall as its partner in various bids but I am very concerned about it and will be asking questions.

The article has more than a touch of melodrama about it. The claim of taking over an independent scrutiny office seems a bit extreme as information of all kinds is sent out by our democratic services officers. A Cabinet Member fainting can hardly be called tragic.  Still, there is a lot of detail in the article that is accurate and we need to know if anyone is proceeding without council agreement.  It does not say much for private sector respect for democratic process if this is true and would be a big warning for the future.

Councillors were, as requested, mailed a copy of the presentation given by BT on 23rd October. No-one is in any doubt that this is a promotional video and a sales pitch. Many searching questions were asked and Unison’s was not the only sceptical or critical voice at the meeting, despite what the article says.

I am still a member of the Single Issue Panel, whose rather critical report on the JV caused a few shock waves earlier this year. The panel has a punishing schedule of work ahead to prepare a report for December’s full council meeting.

There are so many questions that had the brush off from the Cabinet and we still need answers.  The public service ethos and commitment of staff is vital and valued. I am not convinced this can be replaced by a contract, no matter how clever or detailed.

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