Cornwall Council democratically deposes undemocratic leader

Around thirty people demonstrated outside County Hall today, on the day councillors were debating a motion of no confidence in the council leader, Alec Robertson. The lively protest, organised by Cornwall Anti-Cuts Alliance and Penwith Anti-Cuts Alliance, had lots of placards. There were chants of ‘no ifs, no buts, no public service cuts’, ‘no council sell-off, it only helps the well-off’ and ‘Alec, Alec, Alec, out, out, out’.

Robertson has been responsible for the undemocratic way in which he and his cabinet have tried to sell off council services to a private company.

Many of those present at the demonstration then went into the public gallery to hear the debate. In a turgid discussion which went on for over an hour and which was largely irrelevant the only sensible intervention was from Ruth Lewarne, Liberal Democrat councillor for Penzance East. She explained the need for a secret ballot and that the concept had originally been introduced to stop people from being intimidated which, she argued, might still be relevant today. She also brought the discussion away from personalities and brought it firmly back round to the political issues at stake.

The votes were counted and the result came at about 12:35. There were 63 votes in support of the motion to remove the leader and 49 votes against. According to security, Robertson has already left the building and told them he will send someone to collect his things this afternoon. In other words, he will not be back in any capacity.

This result is a clear indication that this plan has been firmly rejected by Cornwall Councill following a petition signed by over 6000 people in Cornwall. The councillors will now elect a successor. It is hoped that any new leader will scrap these plans at least until after the next election in May next year.

This is a victory for those ordinary people that were prepared to stand up and campaign against these privatisation plans and for democracy.

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Privatisation of services in Cornwall

Cornwall Council is planning to privatise or outsource all of its services to a private company. This is known as ‘shared services’. One of the companies in the frame is BT. A new company will be formed with one person on the board to represent the council. This will not be an elected member but well-paid Chief Executive Kevin Lavery. Rumour has it that Lavery has been linked to both BT and the other companies in the frame for the takeover.

Some of the areas involved include public health, libraries and One Stop Shops (including the administration of housing benefit for example). The council say this could mean up to 1000 job losses and others could be invited to re-apply for their jobs on worse conditions.

Cornwall Council now says it needs to find £30million ‘savings’ (cuts) for 2013/14.

Not only is this devastating for the workers that lose their jobs, it will also be a blow for the users that will find they have a poorer quality of service as the new company cuts corners, pay, conditions and services.

Moreover there has been a flagrant disregard of democracy in the way this has been carried out. The council cabinet of Tories and independents pushed this through at a cabinet meeting. A subsequent meeting of the full council voted by a clear majority to overturn this decision. The cabinet have subsequently stated that they have the power to go ahead without the backing of full council and will not be backing down.

These plans are devastating for Cornwall and will hit workers and users alike. It is also a shocking indictment of a council leadership that has no respect for democracy or the wishes of ordinary people. They must be defeated.

Come to our public meeting to hear more about this and to discuss how to stop it.

Public meeting: Tuesday 25 September at 7:30pm
The Lugger Hotel,
Marine Terrace (the promenade)
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Letter to the Cornishman regarding the doctor’s strike

Dear Cornishman,

Doctors all over Cornwall are taking industrial action today (Thursday 21 June) in the first national doctors’ strike since 1975. Clearly this is not action that is being taken lightly and we believe it should be given the full support of the public.

There has been a barrage of news stories in the newspapers, TV and radio media over the last few weeks since the strike was announced. Almost all have been negative. One told us how some doctors earn more than the prime minister. Another said “Striking doctors will destroy public trust… and it might never return”. Others told lurid stories of how bad individual doctors are or scaremongering about people being left without medical care.

The truth is, this is all designed to turn us against the doctors because they know that they have a lot of support among the general public. How good individual doctors are or how much some get paid is irrelevant. Dr David Bailey, chair of the Welsh GP committee, said “GPs will see everyone on Thursday who is ill or thinks they are unwell and needs to be seen by a doctor. In hospitals, all emergency and inpatient work will be done as normal. Any urgent surgery and anything to do with cancer or terminal care will be done as normal. Elective surgery will be cancelled and will be rescheduled to take place within 12 weeks. We are trying very, very hard not to affect patients – our beef isn’t with patients and never has been.”

The action is being taken because, according to the British Medical Association, the changes to the pension scheme will result in doctors paying up to 14.5% of their salaries in pension contributions, which it claims is twice as much as other public sector staff on similar salaries. However, many doctors voted for action, not just because of this but because they are angry at cutbacks in the NHS dressed up as ‘efficiency savings’ and the perceived dismantling and privatisation of the service.

The doctors are part of a wider grouping of trade unions and other organisations opposing the government on public sector pensions and the unfair cuts they are making to health, education and other public services. Their fight is our fight. We should support them.

Keith Shilson
Penwith Anti-Cuts Alliance

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Launch of Summer 2012 Newsletter

We have launched our all-new, redesigned, four page newsletter for Summer 2012. Campaigners are out right now delivering them through doors in Penzance.
This issue focuses on the fightback against the Tory assault on our living standards, particularly the campaign to stop the closure of the Remploy factory and recent developments in the campaign against the downgrading of services and the piecemeal closure of West Cornwall Hospital. The newsletter also contains an account of what it is like to live at the sharp end of the cuts, an article warning against taking out payday loans and a book review.
If you would like to receive a copy of the full newsletter, either in hard copy or in electronic form, or if you would like to join or help to distribute the newsletter, you can contact us at or by phoning 07817397756.
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Support the strikes on 10 May

On Thursday 10 May, hospital workers in the Unite union, civil servants in the PCS union and college and university lecturers in the UCU union are going on strike. The dispute is primarily about the Tory-led government’s attack on their pensions. The government wants them to work longer, pay more into their pensions and get less at the end.

But the strike is also about the attacks this government is making on all of us – the cuts to our benefits, the job losses, the pasty tax, pay cuts for us and tax cuts for the richest 1%. If the government is defeated over pensions it will be easier to defeat them over everything else. Support the strikes!

Stop the cuts

The government says we must pay off the debt that has resulted from giving £850 billion pounds of our money to the banks, in five years. Yet our national debt was proportionally greater in 1948 when the NHS was created.

Even if we do agree that we need to pay off the deficit, £120 billion in tax is either evaded, avoided or not collected each year. This equates to three-quarters of the deficit. If Corporation Tax was returned to the level it was at in the 1980s that would cover the rest of it. There would be no need to make one single cut.

The government wants ordinary people to pay for an economic crisis created by the bankers, multinational companies and politicians. Yet they are on the back foot after it was revealed anyone can buy Tory policy for £250,000, their bungled budget, the scandal of their links to Rupert Murdoch and their disastrous results in the recent local elections. The government needs to be stopped and it can be.

Penwith Anti-Cuts Alliance meets every other Monday at 7pm in the snug at the Crown pub at the bottom of Bread Street in Penzance. Our next meeting is on Monday 21 May.

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Stop the Closure of the local Remploy Factory

Penwith Anti-Cuts Alliance are currently campaigning against the government’s proposed closure of the Remploy factory in Longrock near Penzance, Cornwall. Around 400 people signed a petition in two hours on Saturday 7 April despite a rain shower. We will also be out each Saturday for the next few weeks from 11am at the bottom on Causeway Head in Penzance.

Colin Grey GMB rep at the factory has said to us:

“The people who work in Remploy are not institutionalised; they lead perfectly normal lives in and out of Remploy. We are not segregated, we are immersed in the local community and work in a place that has meaningful employment, no different than any other, apart from that it employs a greater proportion of people with a disability.

“Remploy is not only a place of work it is a support network not only for those that work here but for the wider community. It gives meaningful employment to those that would find it impossible to work in mainstream employment. We are, for the want of a better word, a family that cares for each other in far more areas than any mainstream employer would be able to. 

“Remploy in employing us gives us dignity, a living wage, a reason to get up in the morning, support not only at work but in our personal lives, and most of all, a life. We have for many years worked for a living and not stayed at home on benefits as most, if not all, could have.

“To take Remploy away in my opinion would be the real segregation subjecting many, many hundreds to live on benefits and never work again, and to languish in poverty and despair. I urge all to do what they can to stop this government making a huge mistake in destroying Remploy, because when it’s gone, it’s gone.”

The workers, the GMB trade union, Penwith Anti-Cuts Alliance, other local disability organisation and individuals are looking to hold a public meeting in the near future to discuss the next steps in the campaign. If you would like to help to organise this or get involved in the campaign, call Alana on 07530428246 or come to our next organising meeting. It will be at 7pm on Monday 16 April at the Crown pub at the bottom of Bread Street, Penzance.

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New campaign group launched to defend West Cornwall Hospital

On Monday 31 October, we held a meeting which we opened to all local groups and individuals. That meeting voted to set up a new campaign ‘Hands Off Our Hospital’. We will be inviting everyone that wishes to defend the services at the hospital to join the new umbrella group and help to organise events.
The first event will be a demonstration called ‘Join Hands to Save Our Hospital‘ and will be held on Saturday 3 December. We will be assembling at St. John’s Hall at 11am and walking to the hospital where we will attempt to encircle it to demonstrate our need to protect the hospital from proposed cuts.
Every Saturday between now and then we will have a stall at the bottom of Causeway Head from 11am until 1pm where we will leaflet the general public and collect signatures for a petition. We will also be leafletting door-to-door. Please join us to help spread the news about the campaign. For more information contact Alana on 07530428246 or email
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