Jeremy Rowe

Cornwall Councillor for the Parishes of Egloshayle, St Breock, St Ervan, St Eval, St Issey, St Mabyn & St Tudy Learn more

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A day of scrutiny

by Jeremy Rowe on 4 November, 2010

Cornwall Council’s ‘Scrutiny’ committees have been meeting this week to examine the Tory-led administration’s emergency budget proposals. Today was the turn of the committee I sit on, the Communities OSC. Our remit, among other things, is to scrutinise the Cabinet’s plans for Fire & Rescue, Housing, Libraries, Leisure Services, Historic Collections and Culture. The meeting was long and (at times) painful, but I felt all members of the committee – including the Conservatives – asked the right questions of the Cabinet members and officers whose proposals we were considering.

The recommendations the committee made to the meeting of the Full Council later this month were limited (the process doesn’t leave too much scope for backbench involvement) but largely worthwhile, including a recommendation that the Council should seek to work more closely with the Devon & Cornwall Police to find ways to use budgets more effectively. A Tory proposal to reduce the Community Safety budget (which includes the Fire Service) was easily defeated, but there was serious concern from all sides over the plans for Cornwall’s Library Service.

Significant cuts are proposed for the service (in common with most areas of the Council’s budget) but the detail was painfully thin on the ground. As a committee we felt we couldn’t reasonably comment on these proposals without at least some indication as to where the axe was going to fall, but no information was forthcoming.

To be honest I felt sorry for the officer who was put forward to present the plans. He had clearly been hung out to dry by the administration and had to deal with a range of angry questions from councillors who, understandably, felt that the withholding of such crucial information was an outrage. Consequently the committee supported a Lib Dem proposal to demand more detail from the Cabinet before we potentially give the green light to plans which might see rural communities suffer a further loss of important services.

Full Council on the 30th promises to be a long day…

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