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The lessons of St Dennis

Who’s to blame for the St Dennis incinerator fiasco? So far most of the invective has been heaped onto the hapless head of Tory Leader of Cornwall Council, Alec Robertson. Not only did the crassly incompetent Robertson write a letter to Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Local Government, undermining his own Council’s policy but he kept this secret from councillors for almost six weeks.

In any sensible and accountable democratic system this itself would be sufficient cause for his resignation if not public self-immolation. But that’s hardly likely in the incestuous world of Cornish politics, obsessed as it is with trivia.

Because Robertson, although behaving ineptly, is not the only culprit in this sorry affair. For starters, according to his letter to the Fat Controller, Robertson was fully backed by his Tory and Independent ‘Cabinet colleagues’.

But the blame goes far wider than the visionaries who lead Cornwall Council. When the news broke last week who should pop up on BBC Spotlight but Steve Gilbert, MP for St Austell and Newquay. He was indignant at the way the democratic will of the people of Cornwall had been flouted.

Gilbert, who seems to be setting the pace in some variety of ‘Slimy Hypocrite of the Year competition’, must have had a worrying loss of memory. He’s forgotten that he supports the same government as does Pickles. I suppose for a man who had the sheer face to show up at Cornwall Hall at a demonstration against government cuts in order to sympathise with the demonstrators, this is nothing.

But the appalling Gilbert didn’t see fit to inform the handful of Spotlight viewers that the deal to hand over control of Cornwall’s waste disposal to the corporation SITA for 30 years had been reached by Cornwall County Council when it was controlled by …. none other than the Liberal Democrats. (For the full details of initial Lib Dem support for the incinerator see here.)

Then of course there’s the little matter of PFI deals in the first place. Despite not providing value for money Blair’s Labour Government was dead keen on them. For a start they shifted public spending off the accounts by dumping payment on future generations. Second, they were a convenient way of transferring public funds into the pockets of banks and other private companies. Even better, they shrouded difficult decisions behind a veil of ‘commercial confidentiality’, thus getting rid of the distasteful need for democratic oversight.

Labour’s enthusiasm for this scam explains why Cornwall Council’s sole Labour councillor, Jude Robinson is so very keen on the incinerator. At least this is consistent with her Blairite pro-business politics.

Now, with interest rates at an all time low, PFI is an even less efficient way of financing public works than borrowing. No matter, the sniggering Osborne shares the same ideology as Labour but more explicitly. So we discover that even more PFI deals have been signed off by the ConLib Government than their dismal predecessors.

With all three corporate parties up to their necks in this scandal together with the Independents in the Cabinet where does that leave us? The only ones coming out of this with their integrity intact are MK’s Dick Cole and the local Independent councillors in the clay country. I hope the electorate still remember this when we’re next given one of our increasingly rare chances in Cornwall to vote for someone.

However, the whole sorry debacle, in Dick Cole’s words a ‘crushing defeat’, tells us a lot about the state of politics. Basically, despite overwhelming votes rejecting this madcap scheme, if it threatens to lose SITA profits and cost the Council millions then it has to go ahead. At least the people of St Dennis now know what they’re not worth. Certainly not the £118,571 per head that the Council claims it would have had to fork out to the shareholders of SITA if it actually respected the expression of the popular democratic will.

When push comes to shove money counts, profits are sacred and communities like St Dennis have to be sacrificed.
Posted by Zetetist at 20:05 :