Consultants £75k – Developing row and reaction in County Hall

Following our revelation that Cornwall Council has spent another £75k on consultancy fees a row is developing in County Hall about the decision to commission Lancashire based company  thinkingplace

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thinkingplace consultants – that wasn’t the only £75k the Council paid… we’ve done some digging…

Cornish Stuff can exclusively reveal just how much Cornwall Council has paid Lancashire consultants thinkingplace

Cornwall Council confirms further savings will be needed in budget

The leader of the Mebyon Kernow group, Dick Cole  started proceedings by announcing he had written formally to Adam Paynter, Leader of the Council, to express his concern at the nature of the work on the “strategic narrative” for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

dick cole
Cllr Dick Cole, MK

After taking time to view the webcast of friday’s meeting Cllr Cole said in his letter

“You will already be aware of our misgivings about how the leadership of Cornwall Council commissioned this report for the “Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Leadership Board” without any input from the wider democratic membership of Cornwall Council.

On numerous occasions I have raised concerns about this, and I have also, quite often, asked about the progress of the work being undertaken by the consultants thinkingplace, but have had little or no meaningful feedback. This includes at the most recent meeting of the Economic Growth and Development Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 1st November, which was only two days before the presentation to the “Leadership Board” on 3rd November”

The wider council has had no input into the narrative for Cornwall that the Leadership Board are developing, Cllr Cole claims, and were not consulted about the decision to spend £75,000 on a consultant’s report.

“I am seeking clarity on what the role of the Cornwall Council’s elected members will be in this process in the coming weeks, and when we will be able to have our say about the “vision” for Cornwall should actually be”

Tim Dwelly Leader of the Labour group on the council questioned whether the seats given to Conservative members means the Leadership Board is a back door entrance to the reformation of a Lib Dem / Tory alliance. “Who made Phil Seeva a leader of Cornwall?” he asked, pointing to the failure of the Conservative group in forming an administration after the most recent council elections in May.

Phil Seeva, Leader of Conservative Group, Cornwall Council
Phil Seeva

Cllr Seeva himself claims to be relaxed about the spending on the report so long as ‘it’s not put in the bottom drawer’ and it brings in the investment it promises. However he made it clear that he was not party to the decision to commission thinkingplace as he was not appointed to the Leadership board until after that decision was taken.

“I’m not anti it” he told CS this afternoon “I considered the £75,000 to be and investment and you can only judge an investment on whether or not you get a return. It’ll be a waste if we do nothing with it”

But the Leadership board has only just convened and met officially for the first time on Friday. The decision to commission appoint the Lancashire consultants must have been taken very quickly after July 25, when Full Council approved the creation of the Leadership Board because thinkingspace say they carried out their ‘extensive programme of engagement’ in August & September. The council said in their previous statement that thinkingspace won the contract ‘through an open and competitive process’.


One Conservative councillor who will be making more of a fuss, and taking further action is newly elected councillor for St Blazey, Pauline Giles


After posting that on Saturday, Pauline told us today “I have asked questions about who decided this, somebody made that decision to spend that money. I’m not happy with the way money is being spent in Cornwall. There’s a responsibility that’s got to be taken by someone here”

Adam Paynter has defended the decision to commission the study. He said the decision to form the Leadership Board was taken by Full Council on 25th July this year and creating a strategic vision for Cornwall was part of that vote.

Paynter Adam
Adam Paynter Leader Cornwall Council

He told Radio Cornwall “This was a decision full council made, so Dick and the other were in the room and agreed to make a clear vision for Cornwall. Part of the work was 2 different departments from the council and the LEP putting in 25k each to work up that vision for Cornwall going forwards. Councillors have to give the overall direction of travel and then officers have to bring that to life and deliver it so that’s part of this agenda”

The LEP cleared up some confusion when they confirmed to us this afternoon that “it has not funded the work yet but it does anticipate making a contribution of circa £25k”

What is less clear is whether the reports and votes do give enough permission for this money to have been spent without the wider council knowing about it.

There’s no specific recommendation to spend out money on a report in either the Scrutinty Committe report here 

or the minutes from the Full Council here 

In fact it says the creation of a Leadership Board will be cost neutral or even make a saving as the board it replaces met more often.

The report only states under the heading ‘Financial Implications of the proposed course of action/decision’ ,

‘At an operational level, the financial implications of establishing a Leadership Board as proposed, would be met from within existing resources. Main resource implications would be the time commitment from elected Members serving on the Board and administrative support provided by the Customer and Support Services Directorate (meetings are anticipated to be quarterly).
It should be noted that the Leadership Board will replace the Devolution Monitoring Board which has met on a more frequent basis so there will be a cost reduction’.