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WMN opinion: A decision too important for party-political bickering

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 22, 2012

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It has been some time since democracy has been under such scrutiny in the South West.

An election for the role of police commissioner – the most significant change in modern policing for decades – looms, and concerns are already being expressed over low levels of turnout.

One former senior policeman – Sir Ian Blair – even went so far yesterday to encourage people not to vote, as he sees it is the only way of stopping the changes from going ahead.

Meanwhile in Cornwall, the council's "privatisation" of services plan has already seen the sacking of council leader Alec Robertson and previously unseen levels of party-political bickering.

Tomorrow the full council will debate the issue once again. Councillors from all sides will have differing views on one of the most divisive issues the county has had to deal with in years.

But whichever side of the fence you sit on, and whatever the structure of government, the principles of democracy must be maintained.

The Robertson cabinet's decision to ignore the full council's decision to "postpone" the privatisation plan was brave but foolhardy.

It prompted a vote of no confidence in the leader, a belated pledge to go with the will of the majority, and Mr Robertson's eventual demise.

It has also reduced proper discussion and careful consideration of one of the most important decisions Cornwall Council will make to a bitter pit of party-political and personal in-fighting.

As we enter a new week, a complex round of political horse trading is still under way as new council leader Jim Currie seeks to name a new cabinet.

Mr Currie faced moves from a minority of his Tory group at a meeting on Friday to expel him in retaliation for accepting the leadership nomination from the Liberal Democrats.

Whoever the individuals are that take up the positions within Currie's cabinet, they have a considerable challenge ahead of them. Presiding over a council made up of 123 elected councillors is bound to be challenging. Achieving unanimity is likely to be impossible.

But all councillors and the cabinet have a responsibility to the people of Cornwall in this crucial decision.

It is too important to be mired in squabbles conducted along party lines.

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Life in the rural Westcountry is a marvellous thing. In communities across Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset there are a wide range of events and happenings that raise money, raise awareness, raise hopes, or are even just for fun.

Are there any as extraordinary as the annual Exmoor bolving championships held near Dulverton on Saturday? We doubt it. But it seems more than 150 country lovers had a barrel of laughs and raised money for the Devon Air Ambulance. How wonderful!

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