Their answer can be paraphrased as, "yeah but, no but...", or as they put it in fluent bureaucratese:
"The Council has responded positively to Ministerial intervention but much work remains to implement plans and then embed the modernisation of its corporate arrangement and to assure the sustainability of improvement."
They go on to say:
"14 The Council’s political leaders and senior managers should therefore draw some satisfaction from the progress made to date, but should be under no illusion that most of the improvement agenda lies ahead; structural and cultural changes remain to be tested in taking the difficult decisions needed in order to address that agenda."
Despite that some areas of improvement have been singled out for particular praise:
"- the working relationship between the Executive and senior management has been restored; and
- procedural improvements to the work of the Planning Committee have increased the transparency of decision-making."
Anyway, here are some of the report highlights (and lowlights) in bite-sized chunks arranged by topic:
On the conduct of councillors:
"22 The conduct of councillors in meetings has generally improved, with less personalised animosity than in the past. Group Leaders have accepted responsibility for the behaviour of their members and have acted robustly when necessary. The action of Group Leaders introduces a necessary element of self regulation into the conduct of Council business.
23 There have also been constitutional changes, including the formation of a new scrutiny committee structure and agreement that opposition groups should chair certain committees. This agreement has the potential to reduce the ‘winner takes all’ culture that had previously tended to marginalise opposition groups and had contributed to the frequent realignment of political allegiances in order to gain power."
On the expulsion of certain Councillors and rifts from the past:
"25 ... there have also been setbacks which have undermined the Council Leader’s position. For the most part, these setbacks have been handled decisively, with two councillors being expelled from what was, until June 2010, the Leader’s group. Other Group Leaders have supported the Leader and the improvement programme by agreeing not to accept the expelled councillors as members of their groups.
26 However, in June 2010, the largest political group within the Council broke in two, with only a small minority of its members remaining loyal to the Leader. This rift suggests that the problems of the past are not yet resolved. Thirty-six of the Council’s 40 members now form six political groups, with the remaining four members being unaffiliated. Four of the six groups now comprise competing factions of independent councillors.
34 The improved group discipline has contributed to better standards of behaviour and quality of debate ... However, there remains some resentment among members of the opposition. This resentment has contributed to the fracturing of the largest political group, with only a small minority remaining loyal to the Leader ... The stability and sustainability of the initial improvements therefore remain in doubt."
On the 'Terms of Engagement' of the Alliance:
"29 These Terms of Engagement have proved controversial. Members of the opposition groups have reported that they are reluctant to express views that are contrary to those of the Executive in case they are branded as troublemakers. Opposition group leaders have received assurance that the aim of the Terms of Engagement is not to stifle legitimate political debate. However, it is too soon to be confident that these new political arrangements are sustainable. The continued oversight of the Recovery Board and the possibility of further Ministerial intervention promote stability but, without these, there is a significant risk that there would be further political changes, absorbing more officer time and deflecting the Council from addressing the issues it faces in modernising its services."
Sections on the interim MD, David Bowles, read like the WAO wants to have his babies:
"30 ... Councillors and senior officers alike have acknowledged the positive role he has played in setting in motion the Council’s recovery.
31 ...The Interim Managing Director has shown both shrewdness and tenacity in his approach to his task....
33. The Interim Managing Director has rightly identified the need for councillors themselves to take ownership of this process if improvement is to be sustained, and that the role of the leaders of political groups in maintaining momentum is the key to success. In doing so, he has provided strong support to the comparatively inexperienced Council Leader. With this support, the Leader has taken decisive action against two of his group members and has gained the support of other group leaders to help enforce his decisions. Cross-party support for difficult decisions such as this represents significant progress in developing a Council with the capacity to regulate the conduct of its own members."
On how councillors view their roles:
"35 Members of the Recovery Board have interviewed almost all councillors and have found that many of the views and perceptions that prevailed at the time of the Corporate Governance Inspection persist. Most councillors continue to see their primary role as representing their wards rather than taking a wider, more strategic view of the island as a whole. At the time of the interviews, there remained a widespread perception that councillors were selected for positions of responsibility and the associated allowances on a ‘grace and favour’ basis and without due regard for their skills and experience. The subsequent decision to allocate the chair of some scrutiny committees to opposition members goes some way towards addressing this perception."
On the need for Councillors to issue manifestos at election time:
"49 ... Election results suggest that, like many of its councillors, the island’s public also has a traditional view of local government. There are only two women among the Council’s 40 members. The predominance of independent councillors grouped in increasing numbers of small factions hinders the development of a more modern view because voters have little knowledge of what the various groups stand for at election time or between elections. Voters appear to reward those councillors who have a track record of delivering benefits for their wards and for individuals within it. "
On planning and lack of an LDP:
"51 The Council has made significant progress in improving procedural elements in the way in which it determines planning applications. However, this progress is undermined by the absence of a clear planning policy framework. The Council has neither a Unitary Development Plan nor a Local Development Plan in place, and therefore relies on a range of outdated policies to underpin its decision making. The recent agreement, supported by a member of the Recovery Board, to work jointly with Gwynedd Council in producing a Local Development Plan offers a potential solution, overcoming the Council’s limited capacity to undertake such work alone."
On the council website:
"58 Despite recent improvements to the Council’s website, too much of its content is out-of-date and cumbersome to use for members of the public wishing to access services or to make comments or complaints on-line. The Council has identified the need to improve its website as a corporate priority."
You can read the whole report below:
Isle of Anglsesy County Council Preliminary Corporate Assess Rnglish