Councilors at Cornwall Council have voiced their frustration over a recurring issue – being informed about internal changes and important matters through the media before receiving official communication. This concern was raised during a recent meeting of the council’s constitution and governance committee.
Learning from the Press
Councillor Hilary Frank, during the meeting held on Tuesday, September 5, expressed her dismay at the way members outside the ruling cabinet were made aware of a recent reshuffle within the council. Specifically, Councillors Connor Donnithorne and Richard Pears had swapped portfolio roles as heads of transport and customer services.
Frank emphasized the need for more transparent communication, stating, “The council’s leader, Cllr. Linda Taylor, is entirely within her rights to change portfolio leaders mid-term, but she ought to show consideration for the other council members and let us know directly rather than through a press release from a Cornwall Council official.”
Clarification and Laughter
In response to the concerns raised, it was clarified that when mid-term changes occur, monitoring officer Henry Gordon-Lewis is responsible for sending out an all-members briefing. However, when asked if this happens before a media release, the question was met with laughter from fellow members.
Gordon-Lewis responded, “No, it doesn’t, but you get the point. It is expected that members will be informed as soon as possible, and that will happen.” He playfully acknowledged the use of the Cornish word ‘dreckly,’ which means ‘directly.’
A Call for ‘Best Practice’
Councillor Mike Thomas expressed his dissatisfaction with the current practice and suggested the implementation of ‘best practice’ for communicating changes before they are publicly released. He underlined the frustration many members have experienced, feeling like they are often the last to know about council affairs.
Councillor Peter Perry concurred, labeling the situation as “bad management.” While Gordon-Lennox argued it was a matter of “semantics,” he conceded that it would have been courteous to send members an email ahead of any council press release.
Size and Communication Challenges
Mebyon Kernow’s Dick Cole, referring to Councillor Connor Donnithorne’s move from cabinet member in charge of transport, commented, “I will not comment on the leader’s choice to discredit a councilor in order to shield a parliamentary candidate from negative press. To be fair to the authority, though—and I am not just referring to this administration; I am also referring to other administrations—you sometimes find out about things well in advance, and other times you don’t. Sometimes it seems random, but I believe it is due to the scale of the authority.”
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