Cornwall Council axes leader Alec Robertson in outsourcing controversy

Cornwall Council leader Alec Robertson has lost a confidence vote and will step down following a controversial plan to outsource council services

Cornwall Council leader Alec Robertson has lost a confidence vote and will step down over a controversial proposal to outsource shared council services that has split Cornwall Council.

Cornwall Council leader Alec Robertson lost the vote 63 to 49. The Conservative party that leads the council is looking for a new leader.

Alec Robertson proposed an outsourcing deal with either BT or CSC to provide services such as libraries, benefits, payroll and IT services. Robertson courted controversy by trying to push the deal through without a full council majority vote. Instead he tried to implement the changes with limited discussion in the Cornwall Council cabinet alone.

Cornwall Councillors called for a confidence vote on the leader and a petition was signed by thousands of citizens. Councillors did not believe a decision to change how the council provides services could be made in cabinet alone. 

Robertson tried to U-turn, saying that if more councillors vote against the deal it will not go forward. By then however it was too late to prevent the confidence vote.

Cornwall Council  deputy leader, Jim Currie, has already stepped down from the cabinet over the issue, citing differences of opinion related to the proposed outsourcing in his resignation letter.

Cornwall Liberal Democrat councillor Rob Nolan said the outsourcing contract was controversial. 

“We have all seen what has happened in local government outsourcing elsewhere,” said Rob Nolan. 

But it was the fact that the council’s cabinet was going to make the decision without a majority vote that was the final straw, he said.

But Nolan added that he thought the wrong person had been sacked: “It should be the CEO Kevin Lavery,” he said.

Kevin Lavery has worked for BT and Serco in the past. He is responsible for a £1bn budget at Cornwall council and has been driving the proposed outsource.

He has written a book: Smart Contracting for Local Government Services: Processes and Experience. It was published in 1999 and claims to "shift the debate away from the politics and rhetoric to the practicalities and realities of contracting."

Lavery joined the council in 2008.

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