Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Archive: How to start solving the problems at Anglesey County Council

Unfortunately I'm quite busy today and don't have any time to write. However considering the recent interest (and comment explosion!) on this blog regarding the problems at Anglesey Council I hope you will all forgive me if I repost something I originally wrote a month ago. Over the past week the council has come in for a serious bashing from commenters so perhaps the following post will move the discussion forward onto how best to start solving the problems which currently beset the council...

How to start solving the problems at Anglesey County Council
(first posted March 23, 2010)

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 andhere 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.


Anon 7 said...

Good idea to move on. That is, after all, what the Council has failed to do for 14 years.

What do I think I understand from our representatives?

We have a Lib. Dem. party opposed to nuclear, but Cllr. Morris Jones, I think, supports it. Something to do with the number of people who would lynch him at the Ring in Rhosgoch if he toed the party line, one imagines. Not sure how he reconciles the differences, though.

We have a Plaid Cymru party opposed to a nuclearised Wales, but Ieuan, Gawd bless 'im, Ieuan supports Wylfa B. Same conditions as above. And neither can give you an intelligent answer as to where they will put the waste (other than stack it outside with the recycling bins in Wylfa's courtyard), or how they will get society to actively manage it for 100,000 years.

As for improving the Council, I'd personally:

(1) abolish the dysfunctional, failed ACC (the Isle of Anglesey County Council is a rubbish, ignorant name anyway, because Anglesey is Old Norse for Onguls' Island (the 'ey' bit means island, Onguls was a Viking) so Isle of Anglesey, as well as sounding more than a bit like a Gracie Fields song, translates as the 'isle of Ongul's island'; not very good, and it's too much like intelligent argument for the council to take any notice).

So how about...

Gwynedd County Council?

(2) Cut the Heads of Service and corporate directors, use some of their salaries to keep several staff lower down the rungs, but of more value to the public in their jobs, and some as a real-terms financial saving. The lack of people who've sat on high-power jobs will allow decision making to become far less difficult.

(3) Don't allow Cllrs. to claim any allowances unless they meet the approval of the public they are meant to - but hardly ever do - serve.

(4) All those immigrants that the rest of the UK seems to love to hate can come here. They'll demolish the medieval, fixed ideas and 'who knows who' mentality, stop the wholesale pebble dashing of any building in sight, and bring in fresh new ideas, culture, integrity and honesty and maybe a minaret or three. They'll also provide high-quality workers who will fix the roof properly and not with mastic, and turn up when they say they will.

(5) Put some money into the North/South Wales air service to get it going again. That way, we can encourage auditors from Cardiff to pay a visit more often, and spend more time examining Gwynedd Council - Anglesey Branch's paperwork much more closely.

(6) Bring back the stocks in the centre of each major town and have annual public humiliations of any councillor who doesn't meet strict standards of integrity and honesty.

Well, have you got any better ideas?

Anonymous said...

How about a mass revolt, a refusal by all to pay council tax/rates until we have new governance ?
That should get their attention !!!

Anonymous said...

It wouldn't be hard to write a list of say 20 issues affecting the island, and make each councillor (and MP/AM elects) write no more than 254 characters per item stating their views, a box nent to it stating their party view, and a statement saying which view they will adhere to.

Then we could go down a list, have a look at what they think and whether they agree with party policy.

The document will be a legally binding contract, so the winner has to do what they say they are going to do, and to vote in accordance with their stated views.

Anonymous said...

If Anglesey Council Really wanted to move on, they will need to get rid of Councillors like John Chorlton and Peter Rogers first.

Then Kick out the rogues at the top or the council's going nowhere.

Anonymous said...

A Corruption Czar who is not involved in local politics.

Anonymous said...

Blimey! That thread died quickly. Are there just too many moaners and not enough improvers out there? Or did someone in the Council ask for the log of web activity?

Most curious...

Anonymous said...

Dear Druid,
I would like to add a comment and would be happy to use my name. Firstly, as I am a fogie, could you explain each of the profile listings mean:
Google account
Live Journal etc etc

The Druid of Anglesey said...

Fogie - sorry for the late reply. I suggest you just choose the lowest profile listing "anonymous" which is the easiest. If you wan to identify yourself further just add a name or nickname at the bottom of your comment like many other commenters do.

Anonymous said...

Has the BD Press Release page gone forever?

G**t Sais Cochyn said...

Druid you must hold your head and weep - i know i am as bad as many commentors on your blog but you just dont seem to be able to get a straight answer to anything do you? - we get the council we deserve
i would be happy to get involved May 2012 but as a normal member of the public i do not feel qualified to stand for local government
oh and the comment about John Chorlton and Peter Rodgers - i have heard nothing but good about Mr Rodgers, i am sure he has his limitations but for anyone to get as much flack as he does whilst trying to promote some sort of change - at least he is trying to break the mould

G**t Sais Cochyn said...

oh as for a constructive comment - can we encourage Cardiff to move in it has been too long to wait around any longer - maybe some criminal and civil actions against the corrupt power hungry rat bags would help focus minds on the task in hand