Friday, 28 May 2010

The "Recovery Board" doesn't know "what is a successful recovery"!

The Anglesey Recovery Board was established by the WAG Local Government Minister in late 2009 - after the Auditor General's damning report into Anglesey County Council - to push through changes to governance at the council. Their latest report makes some very interesting reading. Here are some highlights:

"Mr Bowles reported on progress made by the Council and whilst substantial progress has been made in a number of areas in a short period of time, this has largely been through Mr Bowles adopting a "directive" leadership style and working exclusively though the 5 group leaders. Mr Bowles recognises that whilst this style has achieved pace it is not an appropriate way of building sustainability and therefore acknowledges it is now time to change his approach to become more engaging, in particular, with Members and Officers."

It is certainly true that David Bowles' style of "leadership" so far can be characterised as abrasive and often petty to say the least. Reading in between the lines of the above however I cannot help but wonder if Bowles himself "recognised" that his approach was not an "appropriate way of building sustainability" or whether he was told in no uncertain terms to change his style by the Recovery Board.

"Mr Bowles reported that progress within the Council continues to be positive and the overall mood is increasingly one of acceptance of the need to change but some Members are unfortunately still resentful of the past."

No doubt this is an oblique reference to Cllr Durkin's investigations into the actions of various Senior Officers. Personally my view is that Bowles has been too quick to "circle the wagons" and protect his Officers whilst simultaneously warning off Councillors from raising complaints against them through dubious tactics (such as threatening that complaining councillors may be forced to pay compensation to the council should an Officer allege bullying). Bowles actions regarding Monitoring Officer, Lynn Ball, is a case in point. Last month Bowles sent a strongly worded letter to all councillors informing them that a "qualified independent person" had conducted a thorough investigation into Ball's conduct and found her to have "in all cases … acted appropriately and professionally and with a high degree of competence and skill". It was left unsaid who the "qualified independent person" in fact was. Was he/she answerable to any authority other than Mr. Bowles or the Council? If not, could this affect the outcome of the investigation? There is no apparent reference to any formal report; we are simply left with an assertion that the complaints were without foundation, and so no means to verify the findings, or how they were arrived at. Of course just a a couple of weeks later it emerged that Miss Ball had in fact carried out work at her home in Gwalchmai without the necessary planning permission. A minor infringement perhaps, but considering her position and considering that she had apparently just been exonerated, it does not give us a lot of confidence in Bowles' "investigation". I would suggest that unless complaints by Councillors against Senior Officers are seen to be investigated fairly and impartially then there will always be an atmosphere of distrust between the two parties.

"[The WAG Local Government Minister] required all of the non-party groups within the council to produce a statement of their aims and values. The Menai Group has already done so, but the other two non-party groups are, we understand, working with the WLGA [Welsh Local Government Association] to complete this as soon as possible."

Hallelujah. This blog has long advocated the need for the various independent groupings (and individual councillors) to produce a manifesto of what they hope to achieve. I would be very interested to see what the Menai Group have come up with, but as neither of the other two groups (the Original Independents and Anglesey Forward) appear to have finalised theirs, this could be a good opportunity to present them with our own "Peoples Manifesto" when completed.

"[T]he new structures and processes now need to become fully owned, and mainstreamed into how the Council does business. This reflects David Bowles's broader point about the need to move from swift to sustainable change"

And this is the crux of the matter. As we finally established last week via Freedom of Information request, David Bowles is being paid over £160,000 a year to turn the Council around. Its true that some progress does seem to have been made, but unless he can ensure that it is sustainable in the long term even after he has left, then Bowles' salary will be a complete waste.

"During the meeting Cllr McGregor and Mr Bowles shared with the board their thoughts on the future appointment of a new permanent managing director for the Council. David's appointment runs until October 2010, but with an option to extend it for another year."

Unfortunately the actual thoughts on this matter of McGregor and Bowles go unreported.

"The National Archives (TNA) are moving to prohibit Anglesey County Council from maintaining an archive of public records, to close the archive that exists and move the records elsewhere (probably Gwynedd Council or Bangor University). 
"This relates to what are seemingly chronic problems with the management of the service and in particular with the condition of the building which is currently used ... if the situation is unresolved, I and the Board are concerned about the repetitional damage it would cause the Council at what's already a difficult time"

The Druid has on occasion used the Archives service in Llangefni and has always been impressed by the helpfulness and great local knowledge of the Archives staff. However it is true that the building on Glanhwfa Road is a mess - yet it would surely be a disaster for local historians or people wishing to trace their family tree if the records were to be moved over the Bridge and off the Island. It seems strange that with the council currently sinking a small fortune (from the "Three Towns Fund") into converting the grand Llangefni Town Hall into offices for Menter Môn, that nobody ever thought of moving the Archives there.

"Our overall conclusion from this meeting is that the Council is capable of delivering many of the formal changes needed as a precondition for recovery. Its rapid response to the requirements … demonstrate that. However, it is far less clear that progress is as yet sustainable; and a key question for the Board to consider in relation to this is 'what is a successful recovery?'"

Once you get over the shock that the "Recovery Board" doesn't know "what is a successful recovery", I suppose we should just be grateful that they are honest about it.
Anyway, read the whole report below:
IoACC Recovery Board 6th Meeting Minutes

Albert Owen's Mayoral Calculations

Cllr John Chorlton: Anglesey's first elected Mayor?
Apologies for the very light blogging this last week - however I'm happy to report that the Druid is now safely back in his Sacred Grove.

So, what happened while I was away? Well, imagine my surprise to find that just days after I posed the question "does Anglesey need an Elected Mayor?", Albert Owen has actually gone and proposed exactly that. He'll probably be calling for a "Peoples Manifesto" next…!

I would say that the general conclusion amongst commenters on this blog was that for a variety of reasons Anglesey just doesn't need a Mayor. However it is interesting to speculate why Albert Owen has suddenly decided to propose such a fundamental change to our local governance - especially considering during the general election campaign none of the candidates - including Albert - so much as even mentioned the mess at Anglesey County Council. I would suggest that Albert's thinking is as follows:

Firstly, he's realised that now he's been re-elected at the very least he needs to be "seen" to be addressing and proposing solutions to the mess in IoACC.

Secondly, he's also realised that considering that his vote held up pretty well in the election, if there were to be an elected Mayor for Anglesey, he or she would, due to the demographics of the Island, probably effectively be the Mayor for Holyhead. And as we know, Holyhead is pretty staunch Labour territory. No wonder the leader of the Labour grouping in Anglesey Council, Cllr John Chorlton - incidentally representing a ward in Holyhead (!) - has been effusive in his praise for the idea:

"This is an idea that Albert Owen MP has come up with and we’re right behind him."

I'll bet you in particular, John, are right behind him...

P.S. Does anyone know if Albert Owen has a blog? I have occasionally heard reports of one (e.g. here) but have never been able to find this mythical beast.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Normal service will be resumed tomorrow

Still away today, but fear not: normal service will be resumed tomorrow.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Albert Owen backs Ed Milliband for Labour Leader

Just in case you were wondering, Albert Owen has thrown his support behind Ed Milliband - the younger, less wonkish, and more left-wing of the two Milliband brothers - for Labour leader.

Ed and Albert in Moelfre just before the election (photo: Daily Post)

The former Energy Secretary was the only minister (apart from Peter Hain) to visit the Island during the election campaign. He also seems to have sown up the support of most Welsh Labour MPs, with Peter Hain, Wayne David, Hywel Francis, Susan Jones, Ian Lucas, Owen Smith and our own Albert backing him.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Finally Revealed: David Bowles' Salary

In a reply to a Freedom on Information (FoI) request, Isle of Anglesey County Council (IoACC) have finally revealed details of the salary of interim MD, David Bowles:

  • As 'Head of Paid Service' - a statutory post which all councils must possess - David Bowles receives a nominal sum of £1 a year
  • As 'Interim Managing Director', David Bowles is not paid directly by IoACC but is contracted via Solace Enterprises Ltd - the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives. IoACC therefore pays Solace Enterprises a daily fee of £1,160 (not including VAT) plus accommodation and travel costs for David Bowles' services. 
  • David Bowles actual pay is not revealed; however as we can be certain that the £1,160 fee also includes a margin for Solace, it is not unreasonable to presume that David Bowles receives £1,000 a day, and Solace takes a 16% commission (£1,000 x 116% = £1,160)
  • We are further informed that David Bowles works between 3-4 days each week, which we can average out to mean that he works roughly 160 days a year with holidays, meaning his annual salary is approx. £160K. As the previous MD, Derrick Jones, was paid approx. £130K p.a., this represents an approx. 23% increase.
  • the length of contract is revealed to be one year with possibility of extension

It is possible to compare Bowles' salary with other council Chief Executives in North Wales thanks to the latest Taxpayers Alliance Town Hall Rich List, which details remunerations for 2008-09:

  • Gwynedd County Council - £107K
  • Conwy County Council - £174K
  • Denbighshire - 120K (2007-08)
  • Flintshire County Council - £146K
  • Prime Minister of the UK - £142K

Therefore, depending on how many days per month Bowles works, he is arguably the second highest paid Chief Executive in North Wales after Conwy's. That even the second highest paid council chief executive in North Wales receives some £20K more than the Prime Minister clearly shows the ridiculous wage inflation in the public sector, and the amounts of taxpayer money currently being wasted in county councils.

To Bowles' credit it should be noted that according to the FoI reply, "David J. Bowles expressed a preference for disclosure of the relevant information during the discussions with Solace Enterprises Ltd." However, according to other information also released, some councillors tried to ensure that Bowles salary was not revealed to us taxpayers. According to the minutes of the Appointments Committee held in September 2009 to discuss the appointment of David Bowles, the Chairman of the committee, Cllr Thomas H. Jones (Mechell) "expressed strongly that confidentiality was paramount" and that Bowles' remuneration should not be made public. This is despite both the Corporate Director (Finance) and Cllr Keith Evans (Cadnant) arguing that releasing the salary would be in the public interest. Cllr Thomas Jones should hang his head in shame.
You can see the full FoI reply below:
FoI Bowles Salary Redacted

Friday, 21 May 2010

Does Anglesey need an Elected Mayor?

Unfortunately I have to leave the Sacred Grove, cross the Menai Straights and travel away from the Island for a few days so blogging is likely to be light (although every time I have wrote that in the past I have actually ended up posting more than usual). However, before I go here is a question I would like to pose you all as part of our ongoing Peoples Manifesto project, namely: Does Ynys Môn need an elected Mayor?

If so:

  • What value could an elected Mayor bring?
  • What would be the Mayor's duties, role and responsibilities? 
  • How would the Mayor's role differ from that of the Council Leader (Clive McGregor) or Council MD (David Bowles)? Or even from either our MP (Albert Owen) or AM (Ieuan Wyn Jones)?
  • Would the Mayor be able to take on the role of an elected 'independent ombudsman' to scrutinise the actions of the council and hold them to account?
  • How would the Mayor be elected? what would be the term of office?
  • Or do you believe that an elected Mayor would create more duplication, more costs and yield little in return?

Please do let me know what you think.

Also, several people have already directly edited and added to our crowd-sourced Peoples Manifesto document which I uploaded online yesterday. If you have anything you would like to add to the document please do feel free to edit it directly:

Password:    druid
Remember: Anglesey needs you!

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Peoples Manifesto for Anglesey - First Draft

Exactly one week ago today, as a first step towards starting a grassroots 'good governance movement' on Anglesey, I asked contributors to help in providing suggestions to create a "Peoples Manifesto" for local government on the Island. I'm delighted to say that the thread received close to one hundred comments - each containing constructive suggestions and proposals addressing almost every aspect of local government on Anglesey. Diolch yn fawr to you all!

Below I have attempted to compile all the comments and suggestions to create a 'first draft' of our Peoples Manifesto:

Education and Leisure

  • Commission a review of all Ynys Mon primary and secondary education needs in the short and long term so that any rationalisation of services is taken based on an understanding of  what the Island's educational needs are to prepare for the future
  • Allow the formation of 'free schools' so that parents can choose in which language they want their children to be educated - this is particularly important in order to make Anglesey more attractive to entrepreneurs who might like to settle and develop businesses in Anglesey
  • Protect local libraries as they provide the means for residents to enhance their knowledge and skills
  • Commission a review of all leisure facilities on the Island, both in the public and private sector

Social Services

  • Work in partnership with adjacent local authorities, the NHS and private providers, in order to identify and eliminate costly duplication of services and encourage and support good working practice.

Highways, Transportation & Maritime (including the Port of Holyhead)

  • Recognise that improved transport links to bring Anglesey closer to the business centre of the UK are absolutely crucial for encouraging businesses to set up on the Island and further economic development
  • Campaign for an upgrade to the North Wales costal main line (its crazy that it takes one hour to get from Bangor to Chester)
  • Campaign for Holyhead to be linked to proposed highspeed rail link - this would make Holyhead the prime gateway to Ireland.
  • Campaign for Anglesey Airport to fly to an extended destination list, including London, Ireland, Midlands, etc. and not just Cardiff 
  • Accelerate the re-provision of services along the Gaerwen-Llangefni-Amlwch rail link
  • Consider putting highway services out to competitive tender
  • With relation to Holyhead Port: build on good work already achieved by working closely with Stena and others to develop the port commercially and encourage trade as a gateway to Wales and North England

Legal Matters

  • Separate the functions between the running of the Council, and policing of the Council, by the appointment of Good Governance Commissioner to deal with complaints against the council not resolved by the council including: Freedom of information requests & Compliance with Data Protection Act.

Economic Development

  • Recognise that the Island's future rests on promotion and support of small businesses, not just one or two large employers; therefore consider ways to reduce the costs of running small businesses and provide support to encourage growth of existing small businesses and establishment of new ventures
  • Promote the inward migration of forward thinking entrepreneurs
  • Hold an independent review into the cost effectiveness of the policies followed by the IOACC's Economic Development Department
  • Set up a committee or similar grouping of successful business people on the Island who can advice and review the actions of the council Economic Development Department. 
  • Provision of better training opportunities on the Island


  • Promote Anglesey's unique prehistoric, Celtic and Druidic past by developing a visitor centre to provide more information and better access at Barcloddiad Y Gawres or Bryn Celli Ddu (this is especially important when you consider that the majority of tourists brought by cruise liners to holyhead currently get on coaches for day trips to Betws Y Coed etc off the island!)
  • In relation to the above point, campaign for the return of the Llyn Cerrig Bach treasures from Cardiff, and house them at a suitable venue
  • Anglesey's uniqueness is that it is an island - promote that uniqueness by promoting its as destination for water sports, yachting etc.
  • Promote and support Anglesey's windmills rather than closing them down - Anglesey was called Mon Mam Cymru due to its flour production therefore these windmills are an important part of our heritage
  • Consider creating a big attraction in the centre of the island, something like Greenwood Centre crossed with Eden Project crossed with Center Parc, including walking, riding and cycling paths. Boating etc. 3 swimming pools with slides, waves etc. Discounted entry and season tickets for residents.The site could be council owned. They would plan the layout, build infrastructure like roads, carparks, paths, WCs and some buildings. then have say 20 or 30 plots scattered around for rent.

Environment, Property and Smallholdings

  • Renovate the incredibly poor state of some of IOACC tenant farms

Corporate Management

  • Investigate the feasibility of entering into partnership arrangements with neighbouring authorities in order to reduce cost, duplication and functions (e.g. share chief officers)
  • Investigate the feasibility of devolving greater powers to community/parish councils
  • Improved control over the priorities of the local police
  • Set up a 'Good Governance Commission' led by someone from outside Ynys Môn. Any complaints not satisfactorily resolved by the Council should be referred to the commission
  • Complete transparency regarding council officer salaries over certain threshold - no ifs, no buts.
  • Requirement for candidates standing to become a councillors publish their manifesto online on the council website 2 months prior to elections 
  • Independent candidates should also state prior to the election which grouping they will join if elected


  • More consistency and transparency
  • Review whether industrial agriculture represents 'unspoilt' natural landscape which currently prevents planning permission being given to build on this land
  • Consider introducing a scheme whereby people can build traditional cottages in vernacular styles using local materials. Don't allow paved or tarmaced drives, but promote walking to a house. Promote renewable energy. This would create affordable homes, a whole industry to support it, revive traditional building skills, give hope to local people and keep them here, and demonstrate meaningful sustainable living, not just tick-box style schemes currently in-vogue.


  • Greater transparency (all procurement projects greater than £10,000 to be listed on IAOCC website)
  • Preference given to local firms
  • Relaxation of some ridiculously over-the-top 'box ticking' which currently prevents smaller Anglesey firms from being able to bid for IAOCC contracts

Wylfa B

  • Support Wylfa B, but insist that Horizon also sets up a suitable multi-million pound charitable fund on Anglesey (similar to the Shell fund) which can used by IOACC to provide support to certain activities (esp. economic developement, education & leisure)
  • a reduction in electricity bills for everyone on the island should Wylfa B get built. A 30% reduction would save households several hundred more £ a year.

Shell Fund

  • Insist that there are members of the public sitting on the Shell Trust. 
  • Also that the Treasurer of the Trust files his reports on time; not doing so smacks of contempt for those whose money it is.

Provision of Council Services

  • Working with the Post Office, other local providers and community council’s establish where possible one stop shops in the provision of council services. Provide funding to develop training for non council staff in provision of such services.

I'm sure that on reading through the above many of you will have additional thoughts or ideas which you might like to include. Equally you might like to edit or adjust these existing items. Accordingly I would like to invite everyone who is interested to directly edit the above document which I have hosted on an online collaborative editing site. You can access it as follows:

Password:    druid

On logging on feel free to give yourself a 'username' (you don't need to register or give your email so its completely anonymous) and make whatever changes you think will improve this draft. In doing so remember that you are making a solid contribution to improving the current mess we have in Anglesey County Council.
P.S. I should also add that if someone wants to have a go at improving the structure of the whole thing, grouping items better and generally enhancing and simplifying the text, please be my guest!

Quote of the Day (Disastrous Anglesey edition)

Guto Bebb, newly elected MP for Aberconwy, interviewed in the Daily Post yesterday:

"The problem we have is that we are training and educating young people then losing them. In terms of losing young people, Anglesey is an absolute disaster but Conway isn't much better."

You know things must be really bad when even people from Conwy pity us...

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

The new "Môn a Menai" constituency

Following on nicely from Sunday's post about Albert Owen's 'increased' majority, here are some interesting general election statistics (from Iain Dale) of MPs who won with the with least amount of votes:

No fewer than four out of the top ten winning MPs with the lowest votes came from North Wales:

  • Hywel Williams in Arfon (9,383 votes)
  • Guto Bebb in Aberconwy (10,734 votes)
  • Albert Owen in Ynys Môn (11,490 votes)
  • Ian Lucas in Wrexham (12,161 votes)

This is only to be expected I suppose as these constituencies are amongst the smallest in the UK in terms of size of electorate, and, indeed, all are more than around 30,000 voters below the standard sized constituencies of 77,000 voters favoured by the new Con/Lib government:

  • Arfon - 42,998 voters
  • Aberconwy - 43,976 voters
  • Ynys Môn - 49,831 voters
  • Wrexham - 50,980 voters

Accordingly its very likely that the general election just gone will be the last time that the Isle of Anglesey will be a constituency in and of itself - bringing an end to a Westminster ward which has remained unchanged since its creation in 1545. One one hand I can understand that standard sized constituencies are fairer insomuch that every vote will carry equal weight; however I fear that the downside will be that the new 77,000 voter constituencies will in effect simply transfer even more political power to cities at the expense of the countryside. 

As for what the boundaries of our new constituency will be: its likely that that it will include all of Anglesey, Bangor (population: 21,000) and various other parts of the hinterland to get up to 77,000 voters - I doubt it will include Caernarfon. As a commenter under this thread guessed, I'd also agree that the new name could be "Môn a Menai". What effect will this have on which party will win the seat? The Bangor wards in Gwynedd County Council are currently mostly represented by Plaid Cymru and Lib Dem councillors so I can only guess that this merger will strengthen Plaid Cymru's chances of winning "Môn a Menai". What do you all think?

"Empire State of North Wales"

Alicia Keys sang a North Wales adaptation of her "Empire State of Mind" hit on Chris Moyles Breakfast Show today in advance of appearing at the Radio 1 Big Weekend in Bangor this weekend:

Almost brings a tear to the Druid's eye...

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Albert Owen's 'increased' majority

According to the Western Mail yesterday, Chris Bryant the Labour MP for Rhondda "whooped for joy" when Albert Owen increased his majority. Although it is strictly true to say that Albert did increase his majority, its probably time for a little context.

The fact is that Albert didn't increase his majority in the traditional manner by increasing his own vote (in fact he lost 788 votes since 2005), rather it came about because there was a fundamental shift of voters between the other parties - in particular from second placed Plaid Cymru to the third placed Conservatives. In 2005 Albert's lead over the Plaid Cymru candidate was 1,242 votes; this time that lead expanded to 2,461 because Plaid's support leaked away to the Conservatives.

So in reality there is not really much cause for "whoops of joy" in the Labour camp.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

The REAL reason for Plaid's poor election results (hint: its wasn't because of the Leaders Debates)

After months of confident talk by Plaid Cymru that they were on the verge of taking their biggest ever haul of seats at a general election, there was much shock at the actual lacklustre results - not least in top target seat Ynys Môn. Since the general election however, I have lost count how many times I have read the following kind of explanation for this dismal performance:

"Plaid's absence from the leaders' debates was of course the biggest single factor in their opinion poll rating dipping from a record high 14% before the debates, to 9% after."
"There may have been other things that went wrong for Plaid at the election but it's hard to fault their campaign, and Ieuan Wyn Jones was judged to have performed "well" throughout the debates."

This was posted just yesterday on the Welsh Rambings site and seems pretty much representative of the 'received wisdom' on 'what went wrong'.

Only problem is I don't think its true - at least not in North Wales. Why? Lets take a look at what the North Wales voting intention polls actually showed:

click to enlarge

As you can see the first 'Leaders Debates' was held on the 15th April 2010 - but according to the North Wales polls, Plaid Cymru's support had already dropped from a high of 17% in January to just 10% in March - a full month and a half before the first debate was even broadcast! In fact - contrary to Plaid's 'received wisdom' - the polling evidence clearly shows that in North Wales it was Labour and the Tories which suffered from the debates, not Plaid Cymru. Considering that Plaid's vote actually increased a few points to 13% at the election you could even make the case that they benefitted from not being included.

So what conclusions can we make? Well, despite Welsh Rambings' assertion above, perhaps their campaign wasn't faultless after all. The question I would ask is why did Plaid's support plummet from a high of 17% in January to 10% in March - what happened during that period?

I still think that this announcement on January 18th (just days after the January poll) was Plaid's single biggest mistake:

Plaid's pledge to raise the state pension by a staggering 30% - although an admirable policy aim in itself - was hugely cynical politicking. As I wrote at the time:

Sounds great - all Plaid Cymru needs to do is win 324 seats in the General Election to obtain a majority and then they can implement this election pledge. Oh, wait, Plaid only actually contests 40 seats - so on top of winning every seat in Wales they'll also need to win another 284 seats elsewhere in the country… that could prove tricky so its a good job that responsibility for Pensions has been devolved to the Welsh Assembly where Plaid Cymru is currently in a coalition government with Labour - otherwise they could never implement this election pledge. Oh, wait - that hasn't happened either.
This is politics at its most cynical. Plaid Cymru have made an election pledge to Wales' pensioners which they know they have absolutely no chance whatsoever to implement. In the business world this is called 'fraud' - as an ex-solicitor I'd have thought Ieuan Wyn Jones would know something about that. 
Rather than bribing voters with empty promises, far better that Plaid spent some time thinking about pledges they can actually deliver.

By indulging in this kind of 'fantasy politics' Plaid Cymru presented itself not as a responsible political party, but as party which would say anything to get votes. Furthermore my personal view is that Plaid paid dearly for this stupidity in the polls.

I'm sure that this post will generate a heap of abuse - but I think the sooner Plaid Cymru stop kidding themselves that the sole reason they did so badly was because of their exclusion from the Leaders Debates, the sooner they can find the real reasons for their dismal performance.
UPDATE: It is also well worth reading Prof. Dylan Jones-Evans' post on Plaid's performance in the general election.

Friday, 14 May 2010

The real "disgrace"

Strong words from David Bowles in the Daily Post yesterday as he "slammed the leaking of a private warning to councillors about their conduct" on the Druid site. He goes on to say that leaking information of this kind is a "disgrace".

If I may reply to Mr Bowles: what is really a 'disgrace' is not the leaking of information but Anglesey County Council's obstructive behaviour in responding to perfectly valid Freedom of Information requests. On Tuesday this week I posted on an instance of the IOACC failing to comply with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 by issuing neither the information requested (in this case Mr Bowles's salary) or a refusal notice within the statutory 20 day period. In fact the applicant is still waiting for a response after more than 50 days. And this is not the only such occurrence. The Druid happens to know for a fact that the officer in charge of Corporate Information at the IOACC has sent a memo to all council managers warning them of the need to keep a tight control on responding to FoIA requests properly and on time as he fears that an increasing number of complaints might bring a costly full investigation by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). This site for one will strongly lobby the ICO to make such an investigation if the IOACC continues to ignore its duties by the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

It must be said that the Druid has great respect for David Bowles' biography. He was named Private Eye's "Man of the Year" in 2004 - no mean feat - for calling in the Police when he learned that the Leader of Lincolnshire Council had tried to influence the route of new bypass in order increase the value of his land. For his efforts Bowles was effectively hounded out of office. Following that he was forced to quit his new position as Chairman of the United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust for standing up to New Labour's obsessions with targets - which he claimed jeopardised the safety of patients. I wonder what the David Bowles of 2004 would think of the David Bowles of 2010 making such strenuous efforts to avoid revealing his taxpayer funded salary…?

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Observation of the Day

England's World Cup goalkeeper (born 1 August 1970) is older than the Chancellor of the Exchequer (23 May 1971).
(Hat tip: TimesOnline's Danny Finkelstein)

A "People's Manifesto" for local government in Anglesey

When I write a post about the iniquities of Anglesey County Council they often receive upwards of a hundred comments; when I write posts on how the Council could be improved to give better value to  residents, the comments rarely reach double figures. I hope that this time we can buck the trend.

As I have argued previously, the Druid believes that one of the main reasons why Anglesey County Council is dysfunctional is because our councillors lack a shared vision for the Island and a policy roadmap of how to get there. This is particularly so for the ruling group, the 'Original Independents', because they all stand individually in each ward as Independents without issuing to voters either individual or group manifestos - i.e. a statement of where they stand on various issues and what they should like to do if elected (this is also true of the other smaller groupings, such as 'Anglesey Forward' and 'Menai Group' etc). Such a situation is intolerable because:

  • Voters can only vote on personalities - however when you consider that the current average councillor to elector ratio is 1:1,270 it is laughable to think that each of those 1,270 voters are able to know intimately the personalities of each of the candidates. Furthermore this situation will worsen at the next council elections when, following Local Government Boundary Commissions changes, the number of councillors will be reduced from 40 to 35, and the councillor to elector ratio will increase to an average of 1:1,451.
  • As they are elected as Independents they are effectively beholden to nobody but themselves and are certainly not constrained by any kind of group manifesto or '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
  • Without knowing in detail what you are voting for, it is impossible for residents to then evaluate their councillor's performance as a councillor when the next council elections come around.

Accordingly, as the Druid is of the opinion that our councillors will only change their ways when threatened with losing their seats, I floated the idea a while ago of forming a 'Good Governance' movement on Ynys Môn. Such a 'grassroots' movement could develop its own 'people's manifesto' and then urge local candidates to sign up to it; in exceptional cases it might even consider putting forward its own candidates to stand against particularly intransigent sitting councillors.

Anyway, prompted by a discussion on what shape such a 'peoples manifesto' might take below this post yesterday, I have decided to devote this thread to allowing commenters to post what they would like to see in a grassroots manifesto for the Island. I would suggest that commenters might like to think of policies/proposals under the following headings - which represent the major portfolios held by members of the current IOACC Executive Committee:

  • Education & Leisure
  • Social Services
  • Housing & Community Safety
  • Highways, Transportation & Maritime (including matters relating to the Port of Holyhead)
  • Legal Matters
  • Economic Development & Tourism
  • Finance and Information Technology
  • Environment, Property & Smallholdings
  • Corporate Management
  • Planning
  • Procurement
  • Wylfa

It is often said that, due to voter apathy, people get the governments they deserve. Judging by the sheer mass of comments which accumulate below Druid posts critical of the Council, I don't think it can be said that Anglesey residents particularly suffer from apathy or are disengaged from the political process. Accordingly, go ahead: comment and make your voice heard - the Druid (and anyone who wants to help) will then compile a 'People's Manifesto' from your comments.

Is this over ambitious? Maybe. Is it worth a try? Considering the current mess at the council: definitely yes!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Wylfa B - what it says in the Con/Lib agreement

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have just released a document setting out the agreements reached between the two parties which form the basis for their coalition government.

In a section entitled 'Environment', it sets out the two parties' positions on the question of new nuclear power stations:

Liberal Democrats have long opposed any new nuclear construction. Conservatives, by contrast, are committed to allowing the replacement of existing nuclear power stations provided they are subject to the normal planning process for major projects (under a new national planning statement) and provided also that they receive no public subsidy.
We have agreed a process that will allow Liberal Democrats to maintain their opposition to nuclear power while permitting the government to bring forward the national planning statement for ratification by Parliament so that new nuclear construction becomes possible.
This process will involve:
- the government completing the drafting of a national planning statement and putting it before Parliament;
- specific agreement that a Liberal Democrat spokesman will speak against the planning statement, but that Liberal Democrat MPs will abstain; and
- clarity that this will not be regarded as an issue of confidence.

In essence this means that the although the Lib Dems will be allowed to continue to vocally oppose nuclear energy, they will abstain in votes on this matter in the House of Commons. Accordingly the Conservatives could feasibly be defeated if there was concerted opposition from the remaining parties - however, in practice I would imagine that there are a reasonably large number of Labour MPs who would vote with the Conservatives on this issue. Even if the Conservatives were defeated and a confidence vote forced, it is clear from this document that the Lib Dems would then vote with the Government to defeat such a motion.

Conclusions: quite a fudge, but cautiously good news for Wylfa B. It remains to be seen who will be Chris Huhne's Conservative 'shadow' at the Ministry for Environment and Climate Change, who presumably, will be tasked with pushing through this 'National Planning Statement'.
You can read the whole Lib/Con agreement document below. The section on the Environment is section 11 towards the end.    

Huhne appointment very bad news for Wylfa B

According to the BBC the Lib Dem's Chris Huhne has been confirmed as Environment and Climate Change Secretary. As the below collection of his various utterings on nuclear power show, this appointment is seriously bad news for Wylfa B:

“No private sector investor has built a nuclear power station anywhere in the world without lashings of government subsidy since Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. The World Bank refuses to lend on nuclear projects because of the long history of overruns.
“Our message is clear, No to nuclear, as it is not a short cut, but a dead end. Yes to energy saving, yes to renewables, and yes to a sustainable energy future.”

9th May, 2006

“Ministers must stop the side-show of new nuclear power stations now. Nuclear is a tried, tested and failed technology and the Government must stop putting time, effort and subsidies into reviving this outdated industry.
“The nuclear industry’s key skill over the past half-century has not been generating electricity, but extracting lashings of taxpayers’ money.”

5th November, 2007

“The fact that the Government is still only at the beginning of the process to find a safe way, at great cost, of disposing of our existing nuclear waste shows why we should be wary of a new generation of nuclear plants.
“The cost of existing nuclear waste disposal is now put at more than £70 billion. It is a basic rule that you shouldn’t go into things without knowing how to get out of them.”

24th June, 2007

“Nuclear power is a tried, tested and failed technology, which is clearly a costly blind alley.”

15th May, 2007

“The doubling of our electricity generation from wind in a little more than a year shows what renewables can do, and gives the lie to the need for a new generation of nuclear power."

9th February, 2007

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Going... going... gone? (Updated)


Only Gordon Brown could have engineered the circumstances in which he would have to resign twice on two consecutive days...
UPDATE: Brown's final speech outside of 10 Downing Street just provided the quote of Brown's premiership:

"In the event that the Queen accepts [my resignation]..."


Anglesey Council's problems with Freedom of Information requests (updated)

The Taxpayers Alliance (TPA) every year publishes what it calls the Town Hall Rich List, whereby, through the process of sending Freedom of Information (FoI) requests to each and every council in the country, it compiles a list of all town hall employees who receive more than £100,000 a year. The latest edition of their report, detailing town hall salaries for the period 2008-09 (when Derrick Jones was still MD of IOACC) has the following entry for Anglesey County Council:

click to enlarge

Yes - that's right: the IOACC was one of only 10 out of 430 UK councils which refused to reply to the Taxpayers Alliance FoI request. In a write-up of the affair in the Holyhead and Anglesey Mail last month, a IOACC spokesman said that they had disclosed the salary of Derrick Jones to the TPA but not details of his severance package (thought to be in the region of £180,000) as this was covered by confidentiality. If so, why has the TPA not published the salary details? Indeed the TPA claims to have still not heard back from Anglesey despite having lodged an official appeal for them to disclose the information.

This is not the only instance of Anglesey County Council refusing to deal correctly with Freedom of Information requests. An Anglesey resident has been in touch with the Druid to relate his experiences in using an FoI request to ascertain the salary of the present MD, David Bowles, the length of his contract, and what profit is paid to SOLACE, the company through which Mr Bowles is contracted. After posting his initial FoI request, the Council has a statutory duty within 20 days to either furnish the information or, if they believe exemptions to release apply, issue a Refusal Notice. So far, despite a number of email reminders from the applicant, and more than 30 days over the legal maximum the council has still not responded with either. The applicant takes up the tale:

"What seems to be confounding the council is that they have, on the evidence I have, entered into a confidentiality clause with Solace Enterprises, such that the salary of Bowles would remain secret. Solace represents chief exeuctives and senior managers, and Solace Enterprises is a spin-off company providing executives to local authorities.  IOACC admit Bowles is directly employed by Solace, to which IOACC pay a monthly fee for his service. Solace has attracted widespread criticism for inflating chief executives' pay to very high levels.  It is quite likely that it was not possible for the Council to contract themselves out of their obligations under FoIA 2000 in this way, but with the Audit regulations now in place, it seems impossible for them to hide it any longer.  Still, 54 days since the request - 34 days over the legal maximum, they have not replied nor given a Refusal Notice.  It seems that their concern is that Solace might sue IOACC if they breach the confidentiality clause - a classic catch-22 situation that really seems to have them in a proper twist. The Information Commissioner's Office is now investigating the case, and has initially (informally) agreed on the evidence he has that the Council are in breach of the Act, and their solicitor does not seem to understand properly the requirements of FoIA 2000.  This is quite alarming in itself, but the steadfast ignoring of the law in not responding in any form for nearly twice the statutory period so far is more so.  I think it absurd that a statutory position should have any secrecy about the remuneration it attracts.  So, I think the readers may be interested to learn about this story whereby some highly-paid people at the Council have decided that it is perfectly correct for public positions to have a shroud of secrecy cast over them.  There is some chance such a concept is legal.  But is it morally correct?  Not in my mind."

The Druid wholeheartedly agrees. We are currently being asked to bear one of the largest Council Tax rises in the UK whilst at the same time the Council is pursuing a programme of closing local schools and leisure services. Under these circumstances, the question of how much of our taxpayers money is being spent on the salaries upper management of the council is a perfectly legitimate question - are we getting value for money? We don't know because the council is happy to flout Freedom on Information legislation and not tell us. 
UPDATE: David Bowles was interviewed on the BBC flagship Today programme on Radio 4 last month about town hall salaries and severance packages. He is quizzed repeatedly on his own salary by Sarah Montague but steadfastly refuses to answer - but does admit he received a £300,000 pay off when he left Lincolnshire Council. You can hear the full interview here (starting around 3 mins 47 secs in).
UPDATE 2: As a commenter points out below, even Katherine Kerswell, the President of SOLACE believes that Council Chief Executives should publish details of their salaries and expenses - accordingly what are you waiting for, IOACC?

Monday, 10 May 2010

IOACC Councillors threatened not to complain about Officers

It appears that IOACC Interim MD, David Bowles, has last month sent a letter to all councillors saying that "if any member wishes to make a complaint against any officer, now or in the future, any such complaint will be rejected unless it is put in writing, signed, and supported by evidence. Any member, who is also a member of a group, will also be expected to have such a complaint endorsed in writing by their Group Leader". Furthermore he advises councillors that should any complaint against an officer lead to employment related litigation (e.g. for bullying) by the officer concerned, then "the Council will be seeking financial indemnity from any members who have played a part".

To my mind this is extraordinary: councillors have effectively been warned that they risk personal financial ruin should they have the temerity to raise any complaint - however legitimate - against any council officer. We know that there has been an atmosphere of severe distrust between councillors and officers since at least the Craigwen affair; however, Davids Bowles' actions in 'circling the wagons', defending his officers against any and all claims, and making veiled threats of financial penalties against councillors who make complaints will surely only deepen the distrust between councillors and officers. Furthermore, David Bowles would do well to remember that councillors have been democratically elected to represent their constituents; it is the officers' job to support the councillors - not the other way around.

This blog did initially support David Bowles' actions to clean up Anglesey Council. However as time goes by it seems that rather than solving IOACC's problems, Mr Bowles actions may actually be exacerbating them.
UPDATE: Following this blogpost, the Council released the entire letter - see below:
David Bowles letter to all councillors regarding the undermining of the Monitoring Officer

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Ieuan Wyn Jones and next year's Assembly elections

My record in predictions hasn't been too good this week so lets treat this post as conjecture rather than prediction...

Following the dramatically reduced Plaid Cymru vote in Ynys Mon this week, a pretty interesting discussion has been going on in comments below this post regarding whether Ieuan Wyn Jones will become vulnerable in his home seat at next year's Assembly elections. After all Plaid's candidate, Dylan Rees, polled a staggering 2,000 votes less than Eurig Wyn did five years ago - whilst the Tory candidate polled 4,000 more votes. Is this purely down to the unpopularity and unsuitability of the Plaid Candidate and the collapse of Peter Roger's vote? Possibly - but Plaid's vote throughout the whole of North Wales was slightly down and even the popular Elfyn Llwyd saw his vote drop by 6%. Perhaps we are witnessing a more fundamental change in North Wales which goes beyond the unpopularity of one candidate.

So what does this mean for Ieuan Wyn Jones at next year's Assembly elections? Firstly lets take a look at the Assembly results in Ynys Môn to date:

click to enlarge

Ieuan Wyn Jones won the inaugural 1999 election with more than 50% of the vote and the Druid remembers the seas of green in Anglesey pubs on the evening of the election. Since then IWJ's majorites have been more muted and hovered around the 10,000 mark - but it has to be noted that the turnout for the Assembly elections has also tumbled since 1999, probably because a lot of voters got bored after the novelty of the first election. Labour's vote has progressively declined at each election, and the Lib Dem vote completely collapsed in 2007. But look at the Conservative figures: up in 2003, and was arguably up again in 2007 and almost neck-and-neck with IWJ's if you add the Tory and Peter Rogers vote together.

Ah, you say, but Peter Rogers draws support from both the Tories and Plaid Cymru so you can't just add them together. Indeed that has always been the assumption (Eurig Wyn blamed his loss in 2005 on Peter Rogers), but lets take a look at this week's results: Despite Peter Rogers' personal vote falling by 2,000 votes it doesn't seem any of them went to Plaid Cymru - meaning that Rogers supporters must be mostly centre-right voters who, for whatever reason, preferred Rogers to the Conservative or UKIP candidates.

So, what will happen if Peter Rogers decides not to stand at next year's Assembly election? All things being equal it looks like the Conservative and Plaid Cymru vote could be very, very close indeed.

But here's the thing - all things won't be equal. In my opinion there will be four factors (three certain, one conjecture) which will make next year's Assembly election much more different than the last two:

  • Next year Ieuan Wyn Jones will have to fight his first ever election as an officeholder and member of the Government. He is the First Deputy Minister of a Labour-Plaid coalition and he will have to fight on his record - a much more difficult prospect.
  • The coming Assembly powers referendum will raise awareness of the importance of the Assembly and how it has more influence over the everyday lives of Welsh voters then Westminster - accordingly we can expect an increased turn out for next Year's election.
  • Here comes the conjecture: suppose a Cameron led coalition or minority government (neither certain yet) decides to drop Cheryl Gillan and appoint Glyn Davies as Welsh Secretary instead. Glyn has just overturned Lembit Opik's 7,000 vote majority in Montgomeryshire and is a naturally charismatic, popular and respected dyed-in-his-roots Welsh (and Welsh speaking) politician. What's more is that he is also widely respected amongst amongst Plaid Cymru supporters (see here). If Glyn Davies was to achieve the same kind of ubiquity in the Welsh media as Peter Hain has in the same role then it would undoubtedly provide a powerful boost to the Conservative vote - especially in constituencies like Anglesey where it appears we are already seeing something of a surge in Conservative support.
  • The final point which will set next year's Assembly election apart from previous ones will be by how much Wales will be effected by the Public Sector cuts to come - and to what extent they will be blamed on the incoming Westminster government, whatever shape that takes. Though interestingly if it is a Con-Lib coalition in Westminster and a Lab-Plaid coalition in Cardiff, none of the parties are going to be able to escape some involvement in the cuts.

So, there you are - no predictions, just some conjecture and food for thought for you.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Has Anglesey just lost this...?

Now that we have a hung parliament and the Lib Dems do appear to hold the balance of power - can we now kiss Wylfa B goodbye?

Examining the North Wales results

Only two seats have changed hands in North Wales, with Plaid Cymru's Hywel Williams notionally picking up the new constituency of Arfon from Labour, and the Conservatives' Guto Bebb also winning Aberconwy from Labour.

However, if we look at the underlying figures a very interesting picture emerges as per the following chart collecting the percentage point gains or losses for each North Wales constituency (with Dwyfor Merionydd a bonus addition because the Druid considers it part of North Wales - not mid Wales). Red shading represents a drop in support by more than one percentage point; green shading a gain of more than one point; and grey shading representing a gain or loss of less than one percentage point):
click to enlarge

Despite losing only two seats, Labour have lost support in every North Wales constituency - dropping an average of 6.6 percentage points. Conversely the Conservatives have gained almost exactly the same amount of support which Labour has lost, with an average gain of 6.1 percentage points.

The two other parties, the Lib Dems and Plaid Cymru have basically flatlined. Rather surprisingly Dwyfor Merionydd's Elfyn Llwyd experienced the largest decline in Plaid Cymru support in North Wales with a drop of 6 points. Plaid's Ynys Mon candidate, Dylan Rees, with a drop of almost 5 points, saw the second highest decline - despite the fact that Plaid Cymru had flung resources into winning the Island. Only goes to prove what a weak candidate he was (as repeatedly pointed out by the Druid). Plaid Cymru have of course been blaming their poor showing on their exclusion from the televised Leaders Debates - however, the Druid begs to differ. As I pointed out earlier this week, the poll evidence points to Plaid losing support well before the first TV debate was shown (see here).
Anyway, as we have a hung parliament nationally it is extremely likely that we will have another election within twelve months.

Albert Owen holds Ynys Môn

The sixty year old tradition of Anglesey voters not ejecting a sitting MP remains unbroken. Albert Owen has held the seat with Plaid Cymru's Dylan Rees coming second, and the Conservatives's Ridge-Newman third. Here are the results:

click to enlarge

I would suggest this is a disaster for Plaid Cymru who have actually lost over 2,000 votes (-16%) since the 2005 general election. Ieuan Wyn Jones may well follow Peter Robinson's lead in next year's Assembly election.

Labour's Albert Owen also lost votes, 700 of them - which, interesting, is exactly the number of jobs lost at the two Holyhead-based companies of Anglesey Aluminium (450 jobs) and Eaton Electric (250 jobs). However, in the end, it looks like Holyhead has come out for him.

The big winners were the Conservatives who have doubled their vote, gaining almost 4000 votes since 2005 - a testament to the campaign fought by Anthony Ridge-Newman.

More analysis tomorrow...

Thursday, 6 May 2010

The General Election: Anglesey to break a 60 year tradition

It is a remarkable fact that Anglesey voters have not rejected a sitting MP at a General Election for almost 60 years - the last time being when Labour's Cledwyn Hughes beat the sitting Liberal MP, Megan Lloyd George in 1951. Since then, the seat has only changed hands (and party) when the sitting MP has for whatever reason stood down:

  • Cledwyn Hughes, later Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, retained the seat for 28 years until he decided to step down at the 1979 general election - clearing the way for a young Conservative councillor from Brighton, Keith Best, to win the seat for the Conservatives. 
  • Keith Best held the seat in 1983 against a young Ieuan Wyn Jones. Indeed IWJ had to wait until the 1987 election to win Anglesey for Plaid Cymru - but only after Keith Best had become embroiled in the BT shares row and had been forced to stand down. 
  • Ieuan Wyn went on to win the next two Westminster elections in 1992 and 1997, but stood down prior to the 2001 election in order to devote himself to the Welsh Assembly after having become Ynys Môn's first AM in 1999. 
  • This opened the way for Labour's Albert Owen to regain the seat for Labour in 2001, narrowly beating Plaid Cymru's Eilian Williams.

And, as we know, Albert Owen retained the seat in 2005 and no doubt hopes that Anglesey will continue its 60 year tradition of backing sitting MPs. I fear this time he will be disappointed...

However, even if Albert Owen is not the Island's MP this time tomorrow, I don't think we are about to get the MP we deserve. The bookies' favourite (at 3/1 to win) is Plaid Cymru's Dylan Rees - a wholly uninspiring candidate. To illustrate the point, the Druid has just found his video of Rees speaking at a Plaid Cymru rally in Beaumaris last week:

It is striking that the worst thing he can think to say about the catastrophic state of Anglesey after 13 years of Labour government is... that they closed some Post Offices on the Island! Of course we all regret rural post offices closing, but we have far larger, more important problems that that - such as:

  • A GDP per head of only half of the UK average thus making it officially the poorest region in the UK according to the Office of National Statistics; indeed Anglesey has even been compared to some of the poorest parts of Poland in a recent OECD report;
  • The lowest GVA per head in Wales at just 53% of the UK’s average; 
  • A dwindling private sector following the closures of Anglesey Aluminium (450 jobs), Eaton Electric (250 jobs), Peboc (100 jobs), Octel, Menai Electrical (50 jobs) and the downsizing of Vion/Welsh Country Foods (181 jobs) 
  • A fastest rising and highest unemployment rate in North Wales; 
  • An economic inactivity rate of 25.1%; 
  • A changing population profile with a net outflow of 16-24 year olds; 
  • And a completely screwed up County Council!

Why doesn't Dylan Rees mention any of this? I'll tell you why: because to do so would make his boss, Ieuan Wyn Jones - a man who has represented this Island as either MP or AM for the last 24 years - look stupid. An MP who is not able to recognise or speak about this Island's real problems for fear of making his boss look bad is not what we need.

The Druid believes that today Anglesey will break its 60 year tradition of not rejecting sitting MPs. The Druid further hopes that Anglesey will remember its newly found killer instinct next year at the Assembly elections and vote out Ieuan Wyn Jones too. Its clear that being Deputy First Minister, Leader of Plaid Cymru and Assembly Member for Ynys Môn is two jobs too many.
UPDATE: If you want to watch the Ynys Môn result live, it is expected to be declared between 1.00-1.30am tonight. (Hat tip: Miserable Old Fart)

UPDATE 00:31am: It appears from IWJ's interview on BBC Wales that the favourite Plaid's Dylan Rees has NOT won Ynys Môn. More to follow...

The Druid's involvement in the resignation of Cllr Goronwy Parry

Today's Holyhead and Anglesey Mail carries the following paragraph on the resignation of Cllr Goronwy Parry:

On Friday morning, Council leader Clive McGregor announced that Cllr Parry, who had been the education and leisure portfolio holder, had resigned after the letter of support he had sent to Cllr Barrie Durkin, was made public on Anglesey political blog, The Druid.

I would like to make it clear that The Druid did not publish the letter until after Cllr Parry had resigned on the evening of April 29th. In fact the letter was originally posted as a comment by someone who identified himself as a "County councillor who wishes to stay anonymous" on the evening of April 25th. Here is the comment in full:

As a County councillor who wishes to stay anonymous for obvious reasons I understand why Cllr Durkin is keeping the substance of his investigations, close to his chest. 
Cllr Durkin to my knowledge has been investigating Anglesey County Council since 2004. He knows exactly what he is taking about.
I seen his evidence on most matters.Letters documents, emails, film and photographs and would say, he got the buggers bang to rights with lots more to come. 
There's a lot of support for Barrie at Council. Cllr, Goronwy Parry, the Chairman of the ruling group, wrote a letter to him after he was sacked, saying. 
"I write to you as a friend although you may doubt this after last night's events".
"I regret any hurt that you have felt and understand how you must feel".
"There are many members of the group who feel your hurt. You may think that your friends have left you, but the truth is that they are still there and will miss you".
"I admire your forthrightness, your sincerity and your firmness that there is a difference between right and wrong. Take this opportunity to carry out you intentions". 
"In time you will return in an important capacity within the group. Don't forget that the foot-soldiers of the group are still your friends"
After that, what more can I say, keep at it Barrie, I wish I could be of more help
25 April 2010 11:18

Cllr Parry might be forgiven for thinking that with friends like that as a fellow councillor he doesn't need enemies... Anyway for what it is worth, the Druid considers Goronwy Parry to be one of the 'good guys': a long serving, hardworking, and - most importantly - honourable councillor. 

Having said that, I think that now is the ideal opportunity to restate the aim of this blog with reference to Anglesey County Council. In the Druid's opinion, the opinion of most Anglesey residents, and also obviously the opinion of the Welsh Assembly, the IOACC is not functioning. It is riven with in-fighting: both councillor against councillor, and councillor against senior officer. At a time of crisis for the Island - and we are undoubtedly in a crisis - this cannot be allowed to continue. Despite the closure and downsizing of a large number of the Island's biggest employers, Anglesey residents are being asked to pay one of the largest council tax rises in the UK (4.5%) whilst the council simultaneously pursues a policy of closing local schools and leisure centres. I think its fair to say that the council has lost the confidence and patience of its residents - yet Ieuan Wyn Jones, Albert Owen and the majority of the candidates for Westminster have not so much as said a word about the council during this general election campaign. Why not? Its a problem which needs sorting out - and the Druid believes that transparency is the soonest cure. Accordingly this blog will continue, from a neutral perspective, to shine a light on the goings on at the council and provide a forum for Anglesey residents who are anxious to see the problems at the council solved.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Last Wales Poll before the Election (Updated)

ITV Wales have just published the topline results of the last Wales voting intention poll before tomorrow's general election:

CON      27% (+4)
LAB      35% (+2)
LDEM   23% (-6)
PLAID  10% (+1)

The comparisons are with the YouGov Wales poll of April 19th at the height of Cleggmania - it seems the Welsh electorate have now pretty much returned to their senses.

UPDATE: YouGov have now also published the regional figures for North Wales, so here they are:

CON      33% (+9)
LAB       33% (-8)
LDEM   19% (+4)
PLAID   10% (-4)

The comparisons this time are with the actual North Wales General Election results of 2005. The big losers since 2005 are Labour (down 8 points) and Plaid (down 4 points). To give you an idea of how the voting intentions in North Wales have changed over the past 5 years, see the Druid's North Wales poll tracker below:

click to enlarge

At the time of the 3 March 2010 poll, there were many Plaid-supporting bloggers who claimed that the depressed Plaid Cymru figures for North Wales were purely down to YouGov's North Wales sample being too small. However, as the above poll tracker shows, Plaid's voting intention in North Wales has now consistently remained at 10% for the last three polls (3 March, 19 April, and 5 May). Furthermore, if these results are accurate, Plaid's claim that their polling figures have been adversely effected by not being included in the Leaders Debates does not hold water - at least not in North Wales. It is clear that Plaid's support slumped to 10% before the Leaders Debates and has remained there ever since. 

Of course, we will find out how accurate these polls are tomorrow...

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Voting for jobs and Wylfa B on Anglesey

The latest WAG Statistical Bulletin on the strength of the regional economy and labour market in North Wales arrives just in time to give us a final snapshot before the election on Thursday.

The most striking statistic is the fact that over the last year Anglesey has seen the largest rise in unemployment related benefits in North Wales, with 19% more people on the island now classified as claimants (compared to a rise of just 2% in the whole of Wales, and 6% in the whole of the UK).

This also chimes in with the ratio of jobseekers to jobs reported in the Daily Post yesterday. With more than 2000 claimants on Anglesey chasing just 102 available jobs advertised in JobCentres last month, the jobseeker to job ratio is 20:1 - the highest in North Wales. To underline how bad this is: it is twice as high as the next worse job spot in North Wales, Wrexham, where the ratio is 'only' just over 9:1.

This goes to prove the Druid's often repeated point that what Anglesey needs now is jobs, lots and lots of them. It is my opinion that Governments do not and cannot directly create sustainable, long-term jobs, they can only create the regulatory environment in which private businesses can take off and thrive (this also applies to Wylfa B). However, with an election just days away we do need to return an experienced, dynamic, business-savvy MP who can both represent us in Westminster and provide a focus for change here in Anglesey. Albert Owen has failed miserably in this respect and the front-runner, Plaid Cymru's Dylan Rees, has zero business or entrepreneurial experience (despite laughably trying to compare running a police section to running a company). 

The issue of who to vote for becomes more complex when we also include Wylfa B into the mix. Most residents on the Island (including the Druid) agree that Wylfa B is crucial to Anglesey's economic future. However as the building of new nuclear power stations requires government approval, there is a good possibility that Wylfa B could be scrapped in the event of a hung parliament where the anti-nuclear Lib Dems are likely to hold the balance of power. Plaid's Dylan Rees is personally pro-nuclear (probably due to personal political expedience rather than any heartfelt conviction) whilst his Party is resolutely anti-nuclear (as is their Scottish partners, the SNP); accordingly a vote for Rees is a vote for 1 pro-nuclear and 3 to 4 anti-nuclear voices in Westminster. Peter Rogers is pro-Wylfa B and would likely vote with his ex-party, the Conservatives in Parliament. Accordingly, any vote on Anglesey which does not return either a majority Labour or Conservative government, can probably be seen as a vote against Wylfa B. 

(One final note on the WAG's statistical bulletins - I am beginning to suspect that in producing regional bulletins for North, Mid, South West and South East Wales but not also compiling an all-Wales version, the WAG is deliberately trying to make intra-regional comparisons difficult to make. The claimant count rise for Anglesey which I outlined above may be the worse in all Wales, but to discover that would mean having to compare figures in 4 different reports - which unfortunately I don't have the time to do).

Monday, 3 May 2010

Away from the Sacred Grove...

Just a short note to let you know that the Druid has been travelling and consequently has not been blogging in his Sacred Grove. Normal service will resume tomorrow morning.