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'I'm happy as backbencher' says ex-leader Alec Robertson after pay vote

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: February 13, 2013

  • Alec Robertson

Comments (10)

Former Cornwall Council leader Alec Robertson denied he was plotting a political comeback last night, despite engineering moves to overturn an earlier decision to raise councillors' pay.

Last year the Conservative councillor lost his crown as leader of the authority following a vote of no confidence.

Yesterday he infuriated dozens of councillors by successfully putting forward a motion to overturn the decision last October made by full council.

Members had voted to award themselves an increase, bumping their pay from £12,128 to £14,600.

Initially the council's remuneration panel had recommended a rise to £16,000 a year, but councillors rejected that figure in favour of the £14,600.

Yesterday some 47 members backed Mr Robertson, 34 voted against him and therefore in favour of the rise – seven abstained.

Before the vote was taken some councillors said Mr Robertson had one eye on the forthcoming local elections in May and wanted to appeal to the electorate.

Speaking after the vote Mr Robertson said he was pleased the vote had gone his way.

He said: "No – I have no plans to make a political comeback.

"I didn't want to be council leader – I was asked to do it. I'm happy as a backbencher."

Mr Robertson said he believed the decision in October to raise pay was wrong.

He said: "While the increase may be justifiable because of the hard work councillors do, the £300,000 it would have cost will go back into the base budget and will be spent on services which is what the people of Cornwall want."

During the debate Councillor Rob Nolan, Lib Dem, revealed a family member of Mr Robertson's had emailed him accusing him of being "greedy and corrupt" if he did not back the motion.

Mr Nolan said: "He (Mr Robertson) has earned £150,000 over the last three years, more than any other councillor on Cornwall Council making him the most expensive lap-dog that Cornwall has ever seen.

"I think he should be ashamed."

Speaking after the meeting Mr Robertson would not be drawn on Mr Nolan's comments.

The council pays the third highest allowance rate in the country.

Councillor Alex Folkes, Lib Dem, said with the elections looming in just 78 days' time members should be under "no illusion" why the motion had been brought.

An amendment by Councillor Alex Folkes to defer taking the increase until the new council comes in in May was knocked back.

During the debate councillors who voted in favour of the rise had argued the increase was necessary to attract younger people into local politics.

Councillor John Turner, Lib Dem, said many members were retired living on local government or police pensions.

He said: "This is an issue of democracy.

"This council needs to attract younger people of working age.

"They can't live on £12,000 – it's just not possible."

Councillor Bert Biscoe, Independent, said councillors had not had a rise in eight years and during that time inflation had risen.

He said: "I believe the increase is not unreasonable or immodest."

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  • Anyone  |  February 13 2013, 11:05PM

    @juliet92x Nobody accused you of anything in the report above, that I can see, your name was not mentioned, but if the cap fits then wear it. It does seem a bit rich that councillor Robertson being the highest paid councillor over the term of Cornwall Council, ironic then that he should lobby for councillors allowances to not go up. It is good that your father prefers to be a back bencher, but people do not have short memories, they will remember what your father and his friend who is off to sunnier climes has done for Cornwall......absolutely nothing!!!Now your calling a councillor corrupt hmmm unless you can prove it, you can be prosecuted for libel!!!!

  • josdave  |  February 13 2013, 7:11PM

    It's quite simple really if the pay rise had gone ahead a lot if not most of them would not have been re-elected. It's all about votes and nothing to do with those of us who pay their wages.

  • juliet92x  |  February 13 2013, 6:57PM

    @Cassandra1959 I do support the petition, of course. I'm all too familiar with people that don't even know us saying things like "Alec should be ashamed/embarrassed" and "If that was my daughter, she'd be punished". That is how I perceived your previous comment. Forgive me if you were actually trying to offer friendly advice. Does that make sense? In a sentence: My "outbursts" are defending or supporting myself, not my father.

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  • Cassandra1959  |  February 13 2013, 6:33PM

    Juliet92x - by promoting it on twitter and the comments you wrote I made an assumption that you were in favour of your fathers petition; hence my comment about your support for him. I made no comment about you not having the right to a voice because your father is a councillor, so I am not quite sure what point you are trying to make here. And of course you have a right to defend yourself if your believe others are telling lies about you. What you don't have, is the right do so by being potentially libellous about others.

  • juliet92x  |  February 13 2013, 5:48PM

    @Cassandra1959 support my father? I have my own thoughts and opinions. Why do I have any less of a right to voice them just because my dad is a Councillor? How dare you. By "outbursts" do you mean the tweets I've sent? If so, I can assure you I have taken a lot worse than I've given. I have the right to my say as someone is telling lies involving me. Wouldn't you do the same?

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  • Cassandra1959  |  February 13 2013, 4:48PM

    Juliet92x - have you ever heard of the word 'libel'? You may like to look it up in a dictionary and then consider whether your outbursts are the most positive way in which to support your father.

  • Gurnards_Head  |  February 13 2013, 12:28PM

    iT IS NOT THE AGE OF THE COUNCILLORS THAT MATTERS BUT THE COMMITMENT AND PASSION. What Cornwall needs is a LEADER in the image of David Penhaligon whose untimely passing must have been very convienient for some in the Westminster establishment given the waves he made in Cornwalls interest, I have always thought it strange that renegades of Davids capability often seen to meet grisly ends, I an no conspiracy theorist, but Hugh Gaitskell and Robin Cook and of course Dr David Kelley do spring to mind.

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  • MissSuziClaus  |  February 13 2013, 12:01PM

    There is one line that basically says that the rise in allowance will attract younger members because young working people cant live on £12,000 a year. This bugs me a little bit because Cornwall has one of the biggest gaps between wage/cost of living and a LOT of young workers ARE being made to live on less than £12,000. When "average" incomes are worked out, it includes the high-end wages of people in upper management, or wealthier industries. These people are not the type to give up their luxuries for public service. The large proportion of young workers are in seasonal or minimum-wage employment. £12,000 would be considered a well paid position for these people. Why is this figure being considered such a pittance for Councillors when it is much more than the "youth" they want to attract is currently able to expect? This is nothing more than an excuse to justify their greed disguised as a positive innovation for the future of a council that we all know is more than likely going to remain in the inept hands it's in now. #Greedy

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  • juliet92x  |  February 13 2013, 11:36AM

    Not happy that I'm accused of 'emailing' Rob Nolan ... ridiculous. I have never and would never email Rob Nolan, why would I? What actually happened was whilst promoting the petition on twitter and in reply to someone else: @aaronjamesf1 thanks for signing! The others have no excuse not to! #greedy #corrupt. Just goes to show how much the truth can be twisted in desperation. Ironically, now I wouldn't hesitate in calling Rob Nolan #corrupt. :)

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  • Gurnards_Head  |  February 13 2013, 11:15AM

    When Cornwall Councillors get our Council on a sound footing comfortable within its budget and delivering results that do not produce deep dissent amonst their constituents the pay issue could be positively revisited, this should be results based, Currently were the Council a private sector concern it would have been bankrupt years ago.

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