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.