John Keeling will attempt to persuade at least 12 Independents to join the Conservative group in forming an administration to govern Cornwall if a deal with the whole Independent group can not be reached.
We spoke to the leaders of the Conservative and the Independent groups today and asked them to update us on the discussions at County Hall.
Yesterday the Conservatives gave the Independent group what John Keeling has described as a generous offer – which we can reveal is of a 6 – 4 split in the cabinet plus Portfolios and Committee Chairs.
The Independents have let Carolyn Rule lead negotiations on the group as Andrew Mitchell’s previous membership of the Lib Dems meant he precluded himself.
The Independents will meet again as a group on Friday morning to discuss the offers and but in the meantime they will go back to the Tories and ask for a 5 – 5 split in the cabinet but more importantly, details of the policies and programme the Conservatives hope to implement over the next 4 years.
If a deal with the Independent group as it stands cant’ be reached by Friday Cllr Keeling will be looking for a minimum of 12 break away independents to join a minority administration.
“We’ve made a generous offer to the Indies” the leader of the Conservative group told CS today “in terms of positions on the Cabinet, including the Deputy Leader. I’ve said 6 of us and 4 of you, come on, we are the biggest party after all. And support for Chairmanship of committees as well. It’s a very generous offer.
“I thought the Chair of the council could be an Indie as well but they are messing around at the moment and they didn’t come to a conclusion yesterday – but apparently it was very close.
“I spoke to Carolyn Rule and she said they just want to think about it and come back Friday. I said well don’t think about it too long because if necessary I will go into a minority administration. Obviously we don’t want to do that, you’d get boxed in a corner with all sort of things, and there’s no guarantee of course that I would get voted in as leader.
I would prefer to work with my Indie colleagues, after all I was one once myself, I do understand them I was their deputy leader from 2009 – 2013 so they know how hard a worker I am, except I’ve been in opposition for four years twiddling my thumbs”
“I’ll be phoning the Conservative leader of Gloucester Council who has been leading a minority for four years now to see what the pitfalls are but I don’t want that – I want to work with the Indies.
“It’s all about doing the best for Cornwall”
Andrew Mitchell – leader of the Independent group responded
“We don’t need to rush into this. The deal needs to be done before the 23rd for the AGM. I understand the Conservatives wanting to know where they stand in relationship to doing a deal with us. So we are meeting 11am on Friday – we still do have a number of questions and issues over the deal and for us, certainly myself, it’s not just about how many cabinet members or chairs or vice chairs you get, it’s more about what you are going to do, what are your major policy statements and goals for the next 12 months and more.
Some of the issues raised so far are very topical like potholes and toilets but where are we going to get another £12million for Adult Social Care before the system collapses completely? How are they going to interact over the NHS STP ? What are we going to do for the roads and infrastructure? How are we going to address the schools funding formula? That’s the real nitty gritty. Their leaflets said they have a wonderful plan for Adult Social care, I’m still yet to see it”
Cllr Mitchell continued
“They might have a few more doors open to them if the council is the same blue colour as the government but I don’t think they are going to come here with a blank cheque and say , there you go, because you are a Conservative council now write your own figures in here
Look at Devon, their council is very blue but you now have their leader demanding that the government change the schools funding formula because it is absolutely going to crucify them”
It will be helpful but isn’t going to mean the cash tap is turned on
“I’m hoping that the two negotiating teams meet again before my group meets on Friday so that we have more details on that (policies) and their best and final offer on the division of Chairs and cabinet etc.
We’re still at sixes and sevens and odds and bits but that’s because we are Independent. We are a cross section, we have some who are straight down the middle, myself I’m an ex Lib Dem. There is probably near to 12 ex Conservatives but in the discussions that we’ve been having every one has still been open minded and acting independently minded as well.
“It’s unhelpful that John has said he’ll will try to split off 12 of you whilst we are still talking as groups. It is unhelpful”
Cllr Mitchell said he’d let CS know of any updates.
“I’m sure we will have an in depth discussions to whether to accept it or not”