(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:
- In a post-Bowles and post-Recovery Board world will councillors revert to their old ways of personality politics and in-flighting?
- 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?
- 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:
- 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.
- 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:
- What has Gwynedd County Council done to deserve this?
- Should we as Anglesey residents be happy with having far fewer councillors and being just a part of a much larger council?
- 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:
- What is the likely calibre of the persons putting themselves forward to be Mayor?
- Is it wise to place so much power in the hands of just one individual?
- 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.