Thursday, 12 August 2010

Local Government Options for Anglesey

With Albert Owen and John Chorlton calling for an elected mayor and Barrie Durkin and Rhian Medi calling for the Assembly to take over, its worth pondering the pros and cons of various different forms of local government for Anglesey:

(A) The Council retains its current form and geographic scope, i.e. no change

Let us suppose that the Recovery Board declines to move Anglesey County Council into the commissioner stage and its current structure remains in place. It is likely that WAG will appoint a permanent MD sometime over the next months, with interim MD David Bowles remaining in place as a mentor until the end of his two year contract in October 2011. Certain councillors will be censored to various degrees by the Ombudsman and at some point the Recovery Board will declare themselves satisfied with progress and be disbanded. The next local government elections will then be held in May 2012. The questions we have to ask are these:

  1. In a post-Bowles and post-Recovery Board world will councillors revert to their old ways of personality politics and in-flighting?
  2. Will the manifestos which all independent groups are being forced to produce be sufficiently widely publicised and offer electors a sufficient degree of policy differentiation to allow them to make informed decisions about who to vote for?
  3. Will the next local elections in 2012 radically change the current make up of the council? i.e. will there be an infusion of "new blood" which will change the dynamic of the council in a positive direction? Or will all the old faces be returned as usual?

(B) The Council is taken over by the Welsh Assembly Government

In another scenario, the Recovery Board may come to the point that they believe that introducing WAG appointed commissioners is the only way forward. Indeed Rhian Medi's outburst may already be leading us in this direction as Plaid Cymru are apparently applying pressure for the Terms of Agreement to altered. However, whichever event 'triggers' this eventuality it will mean that all councillors will be immediately suspended (with a loss of their allowances) and all executive decisions will henceforth be made by unelected commissioners. The questions we have to ask are these:

  1. As we are entering a period of austerity cuts, are we happy in having unaccountable Assembly appointed commissioners without democratic legitimacy making decisions about which services in Anglesey to cut? I personally find this highly unpalatable. 
  2. The council will not remain in commissioner stage forever. The commissioners will at some point make a recommendation on how the council should be structured in the future: meaning it will either (a) return to its current form following the holding of the local government elections in May 2012; or (b) be amalgamated with another council as the only way of ensuring that it does not return to its culture of personality politics and infighting. Which structure is most preferable?

(C) The Council is re-amalgamated into Gwynedd County Council

This would probably seem the obvious remedy to the Welsh Assembly - after all, Anglesey was part of Gwynedd County Council until the local government reorganisations of the mid 1990s. This may also make sense considering that the current coalition government are planning to equalise Westminster constituency sizes meaning that our future MP will likely represent the current Anglesey and Arfon constituencies anyway. The questions we have to ask are:

  1. What has Gwynedd County Council done to deserve this?
  2. Should we as Anglesey residents be happy with having far fewer councillors and being just a part of a much larger council?
  3. Would Anglesey's specific needs to be catered for effectively by a larger council?

(D) An elected Mayor is appointed for Anglesey

A fourth scenario is the appointment of an elected Mayor for Anglesey, currently being agitated for by Albert Owen MP and John Chorlton (though as per yesterday's post I wonder just how serious they are about these proposals). To trigger a referendum, it would be necessary to collect certified signatures of around 5,000 Anglesey residents - by no means an impossible task. Assuming the referendum was then won, presumably a further election would be held to appoint the Mayor. Such a major change plus the fact that the candidates would need to campaign on a pan-Island manifesto would surely lead to great public interest, debate and scrutiny - by no means a bad thing. The success for failure of the system would surely rest on the competency of the appointed Mayor. The experience in Doncaster where an English Democrat was appointed as Mayor has proven disastrous and Doncaster Council has subsequently been taken into commissioner stage. The questions we have to ask are:

  1. What is the likely calibre of the persons putting themselves forward to be Mayor?
  2. Is it wise to place so much power in the hands of just one individual?
  3. Do we really need an elected MP, AM, and Mayor? 

Having written the above I kind of find myself wishing there was a fifth option... none of these scenarios really fill me with much confidence.


Round 'Em Up! said...

A very thought-provoking post, Druid.

It's pretty clear to most of us that, if the scrutiny were removed today, by next week, we'd be back to the same old stupid antics - there are plenty ongoing even with the scrutiny in place. It seems that resistance to a change to putting the people first is the bottom line on Anglesey, and continues to be a very real and damaging problem.

It's also right to be very concerned about unelected, middle-class commissioners making decisions outside the democratic process. That would almost certainly be an excuse to cut costs to the Assembly with few consequences once 'normality' was restored. But there is a danger of a public backlash if they went too far - the accusation of 'undemocratic' is very easily made and difficult to shake-off, perhaps. Or maybe there would be close attention paid to full justification for all decisions made - which might actually be more democratic than a four-year elected councillor autocracy.

Mayors are almost certainly a recipe for disaster, and the evidence of Doncaster, with the 'hang 'em high' idiot they had is proof enough of the dangers down that road.

Gwynedd Council absorption: Could be. Many people like the idea. But there are very large cuts underway there, and it may be that being distracted by an amalgamation may not be of interest right now, and may yield a bad outcome as a result.

Can the people of Anglesey engage their interest a bit more than usual, and think about who would do the most for the island and its troubles? I'm not so sure; it's a highly conservative society where outsiders, no matter how good, are not favoured in general. I fear that it is this resistance to people we don't know that is the ultimate reason why we have the rubbish Council we do today.

Real change to the Council will only come when the people demand it. So far, they continually return the same old cowboys to power. It tells us more about Anglesey society than the Council, actually.

the outsider said...

this is a very comprehensive blog, very informative and delivers many reasons for its readership to be concerned. Is Anglesey really such an inward looking place or are the islanders (who I have always found very friendly and welcoming) actually desperate for good governance?

Anonymous said...

Presumably should re-amalgamation with Gwynedd become a reality it would invlove considerable job losses amongst council employees along with the Kremlin in Llangefni being largley superfluous to requirements.

Make a cracking high school building.

Or hotel.

It would be a shame to end up part of Gwynedd again. Anglesey (in particular Holyhead) has it's own problems and these would become diluted as Caernarfon & Bangor's would become 'more important' due to their size in comparison.

Anonymous said...

The best solution for Anglesey is for a new political party to be formed to remove the Labour losers!

Anonymous said...

We have family living in Doncaster and the problem wit their Mayor is that uas unpalatable and politically incorrect as he was to the party political 'intelligentsia' he was extremly popular at ground level and if/when they have Mayoral elections again he will win again and probably with a bigger vote because there is huge resentment about 'outsiders interfering'.

Possibly the same resentment could develop here with regards to commisioners with the end result being that the people of this fair isle then deliberately return the same scoundrels just because they can.

Insider said...

How Barrie Durkin is treated by the MD who has just hung himself

"If having decided to investigate, you then decide to discontinue the investigation for any reason, please would you consult me first".

David Bowles, interim MD to "Andrew Walsh" the Ombudsman.

Just an other example of how Anglesey County Council influence the Ombudsman. (Criminal).

Anonymous said...

Gordon Brown was warned about the rise of extremists and nationalists, he ignored them, Cameron is aware of the rise of nationalism in Wales, the prospect terrifies them, it drives a shudder through Westminster and blocks the toilets of the Welsh Assembly.

The only way forward is to rid us of all of the rabble, the unwanted, the malingerers.

We want to be heard, and not ignored, so my choice is for new elections in 2012, and the people getting rid of the scum, the scum who have ignored the people for too long.

Plaid Cymru laugh, Labour giggle, the Libcons ignore us all, why? because they know, that we as a people will never change, these clowns will always be there, unless we support change. My voice for change is with the extremists and the nationalists, and not with Plaid Cymru, they have all failed us, do you care enough, to look for change?

Anonymous said...

" New Blood" are we talking about a piece of paper or the blood in our veins.

If we want new blood, we must sacrifice the old skins.

Groundhog Day said...

None of the choices presented fill me with any hope that this island will be governed properly. There are a number of problems with each choice and in the end some sort of compromise would have to be accepted.
I feel that when the next local elections come along all the present cllrs should be made to resign and not allowed to stand for re-election - however undemocratic this may sound. There are without doubt some good people serving us but there are a hell of a lot more who are their to serve themselves and not their constituents. I feel the only way for us to start afresh is to get rid completely of all the current incumbents, this I feel is the only way to give confidence to the electorate. The one glaring problem with this solution of course is that it may well be very difficult to find enough suitable people prepared to take on the challenge of becoming councillors. Another thing that has bothered me is that there is no limit to how long a cllr can remain one subject to being re-elected of course. I think it time to put a limit of two terms for all cllrs, part of the problem here is that we have a number of these old farts in Llangefni who think it is their God-given right to be a cllr for life grabbing their £13k stipend and all the expenses they can garner.

Anonymous said...

Exactly, the old skins taking and grabbing, while they take and take, we lose and lose.

Anonymous said...

The problem isn't just with the councillors. There have been questions raised about officers too; and the auditor general's report that triggered the recovery board specifically identified a breakdown in trust and communication between elected officals and employed officials.
These issues need come under public scrutiny and be 'transparent' before they can be put to bed.

Anonymous said...

We should not keep attacking the elected members, Its the bloody Senior Offices and the endemic corruption they wallow in that's the problem, that's what David Bowles is here for, to help cover it all up and make it look as if it's all the Councillor fault.

Just like he did in Lincolnshire.

Legal said...

David Bowles : "....please would you consult me first...."
Appalling. Arrogant. Interfering.
Improper....the measure and cheek of the man !
The Ombudsman will surely act in every way proper, according to due legal process...or he himself will be the subject of a legal challenge and COMPLAINT !

Anonymous said...


Appalling. Arrogant. Interfering. Improper the measure of the man.

The ombudsman will have serious problems with this complaint as it has been tainted with Prejudice and Corrupted from the very start.
Typical Anglesey County Council.
Durkin will have a hay day with this lot of dum dums

Anonymous said...

I agree with 16.27

Its not so much the Councillors we need to worry about, although one or two may well be corrupt. It is the Officers of the County Council that need investigating.

Anonymous said...

Golwg360's website saying tonight that Plaid's national exec have declared the Council's document to be against Plaid policy on forming coalitions. Looks like Plaid councillors will have to step down from the new group - unless the ruling group will change the document.

Looks like the end, then.

Anonymous said...

Question to Counc. Durkin ??
How many pseudonyms or anonymous titles do you use on this venerable Blog, confuse...but we accept that is your very raison detre`....?
You would command more support and respect if you came clean every time ?

Anonymous said...

To ANON at 19:32.
Pseudonyms and Anonymous titles?
Speak for yourself and give us your name. Hypocrite.


JHJ said...

20.01 John Hefin Jones aged 45 of Rhosybol, actually.

Anonymous said...

Your still a Hypocrite.

After coming out with crap like that at 19:32 We hope your family and friends are very proud of you.
Still Anon.

Anonymous said...

20.49 Very proud of my straight-talk actually...fel y dylai fod.

Anonymous said...

Straight talk on the blog is on thing but face to face, you'd run a mile.

Anonymous said...

The Black Swan may have lost the odd battle but he's definitely going to win the war.

At the Pantomine said...

Oh dear .....

Anonymous said...

We certainly hope so, they have got away with too much for too long, they have started this war against the people, and they should harvest the storm that is gathering against them.

We insiders. said...

How Barrie Durkin is treated by the MD who might have , to coin a phrase, "Just hung himself"
"if having decided to investigate,you the decide to discontinue the investigation for any reason , please would you consult me first" from a letter by David Bowles, intrim MD to "Andrew Walsh" the Ombudsman this month.
Seemingly Anglesey Council appointed a firm of lawyers to put a case together against Barrie Durkin to ensure he is expunged from the Council and unable to continue as an elected member. The case has so far cost £75,000 and the forgoing is an extract from the MD's ultimate paragraph in his long letter to Andrew Walsh, draught by the appointed lawyers.

There is clearly a very personalised agenda against Barrie Durkin by senior officials and the leadership however it is unclear whether they are mandated to run up a £75,000 legal bill, who gave such authority?
What other liberties have these parties taken with taxpayers money? Barrie Durkin is apparently funding his own legal case so why aren't the other side? What have they to hide? What has Barrie Durkin discovered in his investigations (authorised and sanctioned by the leadership) to cause such a violent and disproportionate Council reaction?

Given that big business has hurt Anglesey so much because of the dependency culture on large employers and less attention given to small industrial units, business start-ups, farming, small retailer and tourism...why has Anglesey Council closed the Holyhead tourist office? What a complete of the lucrative sectors of island revenue is hatcheted to save costs yet the senior management and Council leadership don't think twice of spending £75,000 to "bury" Barrie Durkin using Council funds in what is essentially a personal argument.

Closing the Council's tourist office at Holyhead was a faux pas as the sole employee would cost Anglesey Council perhaps at best £75,000 over a three year period ignoring the invisible fiscal benefits such as office contributes to the island.

The Council Priorities are wrong and Anglesey residents should consider writing to Anglesey, District Auditor to complain.
Double standards, waste, duplicity, lies and spin has to can authority put out a message to ratepayers that there is a regime change but state its prime aim is "its image" when it remains patently the pig despite all the lipstick.

We insiders. said...

Thanks to Glyn Jones for the above comments put up by "We Insiders"

Question: Who authorised the expenditure of this Public money and when and how much more was authorised?
What specific Purpose was it authorise for and when?
Did it go to full council for authorisation? did it Go to The Executive?
Has impropriety taken place?
All sounds very doggy to us.

All these questions will be asked a today.

Anonymous said...

Haven't read anything funnier since I read Schindler's List.

The Great Councillini said...

"Haven't read anything funnier since I read Schindler's List"

Quite. And there won't be a semi-happy ending to this one, either.