Tuesday, 23 March 2010

How to start solving the problems at Anglesey County Council

  
We all know that despite the myriad economic and social problems on the Island, Anglesey County Council is "bedevilled by personality driven, petty parochial vindictive factional infighting", as David Bowles the Managing Director said recently. Things are so bad that the Welsh Assembly has warned the Council as recently as last month that that it is in the "Last Chance Saloon" and faces being taken over from Cardiff unless things improve.

But what can actually be done to turn around the situation? Here are the Druid's top three suggestions:

(1) Opaque groupings

Below is a list of all the political groups in which councillors sit at the Council:

  • Original Independent / Annibynnol Gwreiddiol (17 councillors)
  • Plaid Cymru (8 councillors)
  • Labour (5 councillors)
  • Anglesey Forward / Môn Ymlaen (3 councillors)
  • Menai Group / Grŵp Menai (3 councillors)
  • Unaffiliated (4 councillors)

Hands up who knows what the Original Independent's stance is on economic development or education? Or how about Anglesey Forward's policies on social care? Or how about what Menai Group thinks about the building of Wylfa B?

Any idea? No, me neither - yet councillors for those three groups plus the Unafilliateds make up almost 70% of the council. Put another way: we, the residents of Anglesey, have no idea what 70% of our  councillors actually stand for. None of these groups publish a clear manifesto of aspirations for the Island and policies to achieve those goals. None of these groups even have so much as a website.

Accordingly, without knowing what each Independent councillor actually believes or the policies he/she would like to see implemented, how can we Anglesey residents (a) make informed decisions about which candidate to vote for during county council elections? and (b) judge whether elected councillors have achieved the aims that they set for themselves? The answer is: we can't.

Remedy:  Councillors and their Political Groups must make it absolutely clear to Anglesey voters what their aims and policies are so that we can make informed voting choices and then hold them to account afterwards.


(2) Too many Independents and no party discipline

As we noted above the majority of councillors, with the exception of those representing Plaid Cymru and Labour, are Independents sitting in various opaque groups. As they are elected as Independents they are effectively beholden to nobody but themselves and are certainly not constrained by any kind of 'party discipline'. As a result they are free to behave pretty much as they please - leading to the myriad problems of ill discipline we are currently witnessing at the council (and blogged about here, here, here and here for example).

By all accounts the Council Leader Clive McGregor is an honest man doing his very best to move things in the right direction - but his biggest problem is that because there are 27 Independents councillors his task is like trying to herd cats, i.e. almost impossible. What we need are stronger political parties imposing tighter discipline on their members.

Remedy: Either (a) the groups we mentioned above start to behave like proper political parties by issuing manifestos and instilling party discipline onto their members; or (b) the other big parties need to up their game. There are actually already 2 Conservative councillors and 2 Lib Dem councillors on the Council (although they both sit with the Original Independent grouping) - they need to find and field more candidates at the council elections and then sit according to their party lines as Plaid and Labour already do.


(3) Is it time for a 'good governance' movement in Anglesey?

Of course there is no chance of either of the above remedies happening unless there is some kind of 'stick' to prod existing councillors and groupings into taking action. The best 'stick' will always be the threat of losing their positions (and their generous allowances) if they don't start making the changes that Anglesey's voters demand.

Remedy: Perhaps it is time for those residents who are fed up with the antics of our current crop of councillors to start a 'good governance' movement and stand for election under a good governance banner in the next Council elections in May 2012. If enough people were found to stand in most wards (or even if there was a threat of that) you can be sure that it would certainly 'focus the minds' of our existing councillors.

So those are the Druid's top three remedies for the current situation. I'm sure there are many more so if you have other suggestions or proposals by all means post them in comments.
 

11 comments:

The Druid of Anglesey said...

"Blin o Fon" left the below comment about this posting under another topic so I am taking the liberty of copy & pasting it here also:

Anonymous said...
Druid,
I agree with all you suggest.
Transparency is needed as to what/who they represent, unlike the unhealthy fog that is the present.
I have also long advocated that no councillor should serve more than 2 terms, and in any event should retire at say 65 or 70.
That would eradicate much of the cancer that afflicts this Council !
Blin o Fon !

Anonymous said...

If every party stood in every seat, who do you think would win most seats?

Anonymous said...

Turn back the clock to the good old days when there were no political parties and the elected good people did for the good of the Anglesey Community and not to line there own pockets and political inspirations!

Un o Fôn

John Vooght said...

A nice article, Druid. I fear to say that the whole concept of informing the people about what it is the councillors believe in and will fight for goes against the grain of these people's mentality.

I attended a meeting as a member of the public (the worst sort) under invitation from a local councillor a couple of weeks ago. I was surprised to see that a very senior officer was just as petty as some of the councillors were. God help you for raising an issue of concern that then gets debated in a meeting. I mean, who do we voting, tax-paying public think we are?

'Let the people wallow in ignorance' seems to be their motto.

Anonymous said...

A nice article, Druid. I fear to say that the whole concept of informing the people about what it is the councillors believe in and will fight for goes against the grain of these people's mentality.

I attended a meeting as a member of the public (the worst sort) under invitation from a local councillor a couple of weeks ago. I was surprised to see that a very senior officer was just as petty as some of the councillors were. God help you for raising an issue of concern that then gets debated in a meeting. I mean, who do we voting, tax-paying public think we are?

'Let the people wallow in ignorance' seems to be their motto.

J. Vooght

Anonymous said...

I recall a senior Officer once saying of Councillors -
"Treat them like mushrooms....keep them in the dark, and feed them bullshit"....he later become one of them !
Blin o Fon

Anonymous said...

This is typical of the way the people of Anglesey have been treated and I am not talking recently, this attitude has destroyed the heart and soulf of Anglesey, it's a small wonder no one has burnt the place down, but wait, we don't want the place burnt down, we want it bulldozed down, with a memorial on the site.

Arbeit Macht Frei would be appropriate as we have all worked to pay our taxes to keep these idiots in their way of life.

Show the people of Anglesey the Enforcement Notice that was used to destroy the ANGLESEY 2, a Welsh family destroyed by an unlawful and incompatable idiotic and evil Government.

Anonymous said...

Show me the Enforcement Notice could be a campaign to shake them to the core. Can you put a petition on this site?

Un o'r borth.

The Druid of Anglesey said...

Anon: its an interesting question. The latest YouGov North Wales poll has Labour at 38%, the Torys at 35%, Lib Dems at 12% and Plaid at 10%. The Plaid support is much stronger in Anglesey, so I would imagine a fairly even split between Lab, Con and PC. Thats said Independents are part of the Island's culture so I can't imagine there being less than 1/3rd Independents too.

Un o'r borth: not sure how to make a petition on this site. You might like to try: http://www.ipetitions.com or perhaps make a petition to number 10: http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/

Ioan said...

Re: my interesting question!
Is tactical voting a problem in Anglesey? We have three main parties, and in a fight between an Independent and one of the parties, supporters of the parties not contesting might vote for the independent? Am I making sense?!!

Also, from the article (especially point 1 and 2) the only conclusion is that you should only vote Labour / Plaid. I'm sure that was not your intention!

Anonymous said...

The Anglesey County Council needs a ton of help. It's worse than Senior Housing in Detroit :)

First off, the council needs to get together and re-strategize. Secondly, they need to get some new board members. Serious help is needed.