Monday, 18 October 2010

Wales Audit Office on Anglesey Council: "Yeah but, no but..."

The Wales Audit Office has published their Preliminary Corporate Assessment of Anglesey County Council --  a document which they state is "designed to answer the question: ‘Are the Council’s arrangements likely to secure continuous improvement?’".

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

59 comments:

Anonymous said...

Druid , have you thought of standing for your ward in the next election ?

webmaster_316 ;-)

The Red Flag said...

It's little better than a cover-up.

What exactly has been inproved - suppression and propaganda is all. Still the same people by-&-large running the show and nobody prosecuted.

Darren said...

round and round the merry-go-round. I'm dizzy

Anonymous said...

Inexperienced Leader who needs Bowles to tell him what to do. If that's the case he should go.

It couldn't be clearer who told McGregor to get rid of Cllr Durkin in an attempt to stop him from exposing all the Dishonesty. how much longer is this cretin Bowles going to be with us?

Insider said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Drowning not Waving said...

I've been told that one of the hallmarks of good leadership is creating a team that people want to be part of.

Puck

Anonymous said...

What's worse an Inexperienced Leader or no leadership at all?.

Is it little wonder, now we know the Council is run by a Dictator and his Puppet, why the Council is in so much disrepute and a complete and utter laughing stock?

Monoglot said...

Can anyone translate the 'Llanast grantiau ym Mon' article that's in the latest edition Golwg and post a summary on here?

The Druid of Anglesey said...

Monoglot - watch this space, a large article on the grants situation mentioned in Golwg is coming to this blog very shortly...

The Great Councillini said...

"round and round the merry-go-round. I'm dizzy"

Darren, I couldn't have put it better in a month of Sundays.

At least there is some getting closer in this document to the cultural difficulties which underlie most of our difficulties.

"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"

So that says it all, really; despite having been rapped for this approach, 'most' are still sticking to it. Like I've said all along, we'll be back to normal as soon as this lot have left for their new positions on public committees.

Where's that 'Abandon All Hope' sign again?

Anonymous said...

That cover image is taken from above Abergwyngregyn. Do we read into this that Gwynedd will play a bigger part in Anglesey's affairs in future?

Anonymous said...

28. I would have thought it proper for the WAO to refrain from appearing to support the Terms of Engagement in this respect. After all, the Ombudsman has not decided on the complaint made to them, and until they do, it would be wiser to treat the two councillors are innocent. That is how justice works in this country.

Prometheuswrites said...

I thought this passage in the report was interesting.

"31 The Interim Managing Director has shown both shrewdness and tenacity in his approach to his task. Though led by the recommendations of the 2009 Corporate Governance Inspection, he
has added his own analysis of the
issues the Council faces and has
identified a clear programme of
priorities to improve the Council’s
governance and management".

Would this analysis be considered part of the public domain and could a copy be obtained through FoIA?

I've always thought that Mr Bowles has steered a very canny course during his tenure. I can't recall him commenting publically to any great extent, (the notable exception being the publication of his letter regarding the problems about his initial home rental - also very astutely handled IMO), and he has kept clear of getting personally drawn into the media's reporting of matters.

I know he regularly gets condemned by commentators on the blog, but I haven't seen much in the way of documentation to support these allegations (apart from the leaked letter to the Ombudsman regarding the complaint against Councillor Durkin).

It would be good to see a copy of his analysis as it would throw light on both how he approaches and what he considers to be the problems and solutions that constitute Ynys Mon's very own Gordian Knot.

DK55 said...

A question for the Druid, as this page seems politically motivated is it true that the Druid is standing for the Tory Party at the next 2012 Ynys Mon election??????????????
DK55

Anonymous said...

The Problems with Anglesey County Council have developed and escalated since the change over from the old borough council many years ago, so how come Cllr Durkin is getting all the blame? He was not elected till 2008. Or is it a matter that he is doing exactly what he should be doing and trying to clear out all the crap, and they just don't like it and have brought Bowles in to stop him.

Anonymous said...

Prometheuswrites at18:51

Have you seen or know of any documentation that remotely supports David Bowles's allegations against Cllr Durkin? If so please enlighten us.
Contrary to what you say David Bowles has made a number of unwarranted personal attacks on councillors through the media.

Prometheuswrites said...

20.31:

As I said; I haven't seen any documentation regarding allegations against Mr Bowles.

And I certainly haven't said anything about documentation against Councillor Durkin.

The letter I was referring to was the one that was leaked and posted on this blog, which is somewhat damning of Mr Bowles, as it appears to ask the Ombudsman to contact him privately in the event that Ombudsman decides there is no case to answer. ( - and I'm not happy that, if Mr Bowles is the complainant, that he is asking for special privilage in this instance).

So, I apologise that I can't produce any evidence to back up what I haven't said.

I'm also not saying David Bowles hasn't "made a number of unwarranted personal attacks on councillors through the media" and I'm always willing to examine any documented references you may supply to support your own assertion; and I will change my mind accordingly if the evidence warrants.

If you would like to me to be critical of Mr Bowles the best I can do is say is that he delegated the letters I sent to him to someone else to answer my questions. I also understand that he is a difficult man to see in person, but I can't confirm that personally as I haven't asked to see him myself, yet.

I'm also not saying that he's doing a good job, as I really don't know what he's doing, which was the point of my original post.

Anonymous said...

Prometheuswrites at 22:33
Thank you for you explanation.

Anonymous said...

What is astonishing about the Bowles/Durkin at al debacle is the fact that they remain - even after all this time - merely unproven allegations as far as the public are concerned. I suspect that, if handed to an experienced libel barrister, the Council could find itself facing another hefty legal bill.

Regrettably, the Council has taken a view that it can publicly attack elected members whilst failing to reveal to the public what the case - and evidence - is. It seems to me that if this is Mr. Bowles' approach, then the public are entitled to be concerned. Avoidance of public engagement may well indicate a lack of respect for the concept of public accountability.

Anonymous said...

Anon
I'm sure I've heard whispers that Cllr Durkin's solicitors have engaged barristers to put a case against the Council together already, I hope so. This Council and David Bowles needs to be learned a lesson that it will never forget. Trouble is, it will be the rate payers who will be carrying the can and it will be very hefty.

Anonymous said...

Fowlie asked Jeremy Coleman for assistance but the tosser Coleman sent has just made things worse.DB was appointed without competition by his Labour pal Dr Gibbons. They both previously worked the system at Bridgend Council. HWT, JC, GWR are again sharpening their knives and poor inexperienced former copper CM the leader has shown he is unfit for purpose.He even describes himself as "devious" which is a frightening thought. The next thing might be a forced leadership contest and another prat running the show as leader.

2012 is around the corner,potential new candidates should be identified for election to rid Anglesey of the motley ship of disgraceful characters forementioned. These people are only interested in money, they cause as many problems as possible to secure cabinet wage. In my book they are patronising and traitors to Anglesey. We want new blood, lance that old boil, cleanse Anglesey of these tyrants. Stand against them. Holyhead has received far too much assistance (£155m) and its still a crap hole.

And yes, Druid, have you thought about running against the ineffective charmless IWJ?

Anonymous said...

"I've heard whispers that Cllr Durkin's solicitors have engaged barristers to put a case against the Council together already, I hope so"

I certainly hope that the Council is held to account for its public humiliation of elected local members; that is something we should all be concerned about, whether we like the person accused or not.

And what of the Council's own failings? Will it report itself to the Ombudsman? Will it agree that it is generally incompetent, vindictive and unable to improve itself? The whole thing has become mired in political meddling and gamesmanship.

Avatar said...

Can ask that we consider the future, and what steps will be required to ensure that we have a Council that delivers and addresses the main concerns of the people of the island. No doubt, you will find they are in the main the economy, education and the environment.

What do we need to move the process forward, to build on the work already done by the Council and as recognised by the Auditor General for Wales.

Firstly, we need a new chief executive, and I mean a chief executive, a strong professional person to lead the Council. Is there a timetable for the appointment process?

I have not seen or heard of any, what we read into the absence of any serious moves to appoint a new head of service for the Council I’ll leave to others.

Secondly, we need to consider what will replace the Recovery Board. Already and as suggested within the Druid’s Peoples Manifesto the function of delivery and that of monitoring the work of the Council should be split into distinct departments, with the Good Governance Commissioner being responsible for monitoring.

Thirdly, we need to consider whether the current model of the executive board is the best suited for the Council, when some would say there is far too many independent factions.

An alternative a Chief Executive and a managing board to run the Council, a Good Governance Commissioner to monitor the work of the Council, and the Councillors to agree and approve overall policy for the Council.

The Conservatives want a debate about the ‘Big Society’ maybe we should also have an honest debate about our smaller society on how we want to be governed in the future.

Anonymous said...

The first step to recovery should have been to embrace Cllr Durkin's efforts to rid the council of it's wrong doer's and bad practice's. That failure and the get out of jail mentality David Bowles has created is a complete disaster.
If he and the council had done the right thing recovery would have already taken place with a new managing director in place. All it needed was to take notice of Cllr Durkin and do it.

Anonymous said...

With regard to David Bowles's Complaint to the Ombudsman, I suggest the following extract from his complaint says much for David Bowles's integrity and his methods of control.

"This is a matter of great significance for the County Council, and I would also be grateful if you could keep me informed of the progress of the matter. If, having decided to Investigate, you then decide to discontinue the investigation for any reason, please would you consult me first".

So now David Bowles has compromised the Ombudsman impartiality. How can he continue to investigate Bowles's complaint without the inevitable outcome being tainted?

another anon and me said...

On a similar note, I read with interest the report in the Daily Post today see

http://www.dailypost.co.uk/news/north-wales-news/2010/10/19/decision-due-on-flintshire-council-leader-s-future-55578-27498139/

Now seeing how popular Cllr Durkin is, I wonder why he hasn’t formed a new independent group, maybe the majority of other Councillors have decided not to embrace Cllr Durkin, or in any event at least enough to form a new group. Now I wonder why?

Anonymous said...

If the Ombudsman does continue with David Bowles's complaint and finds against Cllr Durkin the Ombudsman could never be trusted again and the High Courts would wipe the floor with all concerned.

What's happened already is a serious breach of the Human Rights Act and an attack at the very heart of our Democracy. If the Welsh Assemble don't remove Bowles themselves then they including IWJ will be comparable, that's if they haven't all ready.

Anonymous said...

On a similar note, I read with interest the report in the Daily Post.

Yes an interesting theory, however I think Cllr Durkin's to canny to want to form a new group from my experience of him he'll be to busy looking after his constituent to concern himself with having to deal with the Executives current rabble

another anon and me said...

The investigation of the Ombudsman will be findings of fact, the ombudsman reports to the Adjudication Panel for Wales. It’s this Panel that will pass judgement as to whether the Councillor has broken the Code of Conduct.

Can we not wait for the investigation to be completed before we pass judgement, I think I recall Cllr Durkin saying he has nothing to fear and looks forward to defending himself in front of the panel.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Druid

The word at 12:57 should have been Culpable not Comparable.

Anonymous said...

Anon and me.
Your at it again, you can't have it both ways. Stop shit stirring.

another anon and me said...

Anon 13:07

May I suggest that the interest of his constituent (Cllr Durkin) would be best served with a fully functioning council, a Council that could concentrate on delivering the services they want, and not one for ever having to defend itself against malicious attacks.

Sometimes I suspect he is far to canny for himself.

throw and stand well back said...

To anon 13:24

I like it so much though, and did I hit a target there then, me thinks so, now where is my spoon.....

Anonymous said...

"The investigations of the Ombudsman will be findings of fact"
How do you know? Having been influenced by Bowles, who knows what the Ombudsman will conjure up?

By doing what Bowles has done, the Public perception is that the Ombudsman's impartiality has been compromised. That's more than enough not to continue with the investigation or risk litigation.

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth if the Ombudsman did decide to stop his investigation in to David Bowles Complaint. David Bowles would be finished along with a lot of others.

Anonymous said...

Well, its confirmed then, that Councillors have become more civil with each other at meetings.
John Chorlton will be happy, the Councillors might all attend his xmas party this year.

TGC said...

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

This is really curious and possibly worrying. Why? Because the Ombudsman Act has a specific clause that says, if they decide not to investigate, or discontinue an investigation, then they must inform the public body in question and the complainant.

So, did Bowles not understand how the system works, or did he know, but was trying to get preferential treatment from the Ombudsman in wanting to be told before the complainant?

See:
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2005/10/contents/enacted

Anonymous said...

Why would the Ombudsman decide to investigate then discontinue his investigation ?

Surely, if he decides to investigate he publishes his findings whether favourably or not for Cllr Durkin.

I agree with TGC above, it is curious and possibly worrying.

Anonymous said...

TGC. 16:42.
The suggestion in the request from David Bowles is one of: If you decide to discontinue the Investigation for any reason, please will you CONSULT me first". Not INFORM me first. There is a great deal of difference between inform and consult.

To Inform is to tell a person of.

To Consult is to. Take council,
seek information or advice.

No, Bowles's intentions are clear. To influence the Ombudsman. end of story.

TGC said...

17:40

I find it difficult to see how the Ombudsman would consult Bowles without informing him. The chat would be interesting:

'Hello, it's the Ombudsman calling to consult you, Mr. Bowles'.

Bowles:'Oh, what about?'

Ombudsman: 'Erm, we're only consulting, not informing'.

Bowles: 'I see. Thank you. Goodbye'.

Yep. Education is really useful.

Anonymous said...

There is much more to this than meets the eye. I feel a bomb shell is about to descend on the Kremlin before to long, something not right at all.

Anonymous said...

This is an open application to Anglesey County Council for information under the freedom of information Act on behalf of the residents of Ynys Mon.
Hard copy to follow.

How many occasions has the Council used Y M Investigations and/or Y M Investigation Ltd. to do work on their behalf?

Has the Council asked any other comparable Companies to do the work?

Has any of the work been put out to tender?

Did the Council obtain any costing prior to giving any work to Y M Investigations and/or T M Investigations Ltd?

Has the Council used Y M Investigations and or Y M Investigations Ltd to obtain back ground checks on Elected Members? If so please supply details.

Is the Council aware that the Leader of the Council is a director of Y M Investigations Ltd and as the Leader, is responsible for Legal and procurement?

Anonymous said...

TGC
I think your playing with semantics, Isn't education wonderful? good try. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

All I hear is "lets stand up against them in 2012" but no one stands forward? Are we to see a new political group in 2012 - "The Original Anonymouses"?

Anonymous said...

Improving CSYM is not an overnight process. Overcoming 14 years of poor leadership, corporate mismanagement and the erosion of trust between staff with members and their managers is going to take time to overcome. Despite being a skeptic, once you have listened to DB you would realise he is part of the solution and has na ongoing difficult role. Arresting further decline has been achieved. The task of reposititoing the Council remains. Give the man a chance. Constantly raking up nonsense and chasing the details smacks of UFO spotters and not an adult debate on the future of local government on the Island.

The Druid of Anglesey said...

Anon 22.09 - LOL!

Anonymous said...

22:24
Can it be taken that you have all the inside knowledge to be able to make such a comment?
Have you for instance listened to DB?

How do you know he has arrested further decline?

How do you know what's being raked up (AS YOU PUT IT)is nonsense?

I suggest (with no disrespect meant), you should consider whether it is you who is the UFO spotter before making such crass remarks.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Anon @ 22.09 . Perhaps the Druid could light the way and lead your party , about time way had a good Tory in power ! hehehe

Anonymous said...

That should be "we had" not way

TGC said...

RE: FoIA request.

"How many occasions has the Council used Y M Investigations and/or Y M Investigation Ltd. to do work on their behalf?"

This might be refused under Part 2 (Exemptions), s.30 of the Act. Quite a difficult one to argue against exemption, too, as you would have to prove (in effect, get the Council to state) that they had a duty, obligation or just a power to conduct an investigation. Such powers are wide, and include criminal and civil matters.

On the positive side, you are not asking what they have done with the use of information gathered from YMI, so it would be difficult to see how this could be prejudicial to their investigations. I can also tell you that when I asked some time ago for how many times the Council had used their powers to conduct surveillance on the public (which they can lawfully do), they did respond, saying they had never done so within the period in question.

If and when you get a response, do post it here so we can examine any refusal and see if it is a lawful reply.

Anonymous said...

TGC.
Will Do.

The Red Flag said...

once you have listened to DB you would realise he is part of the solution

I once listened to Rafael Benitez and he did indeed deliver a European Cup and an FA Cup. I then listened to Hicks & Gillett and indeed they did plough a lot of dosh into the club.

And look at us now. Just be sure if you listen to DB that you aren't listening to a false prophet who will deliver in the short term but destroy you in the long term because they fail to rip-out and eradicate the long-term causes.

And always make sure when you listen to a prophet you have some way of stoning him to death no matter how far away nor how far in the future.

This is not sorted until councillors - both past and present, who have committed malfeasance are prosecuted and barred from Office for life and Council Officials - again both past and present (and even retired) are dealt with the same way.

Anything less is a cover-up and it will happen again.

Anonymous said...

Today we see another lame duck Councillor in the firing line. Cllr William Hughes is not a very popular chap these days (Trouble at mill or in his case the Bio-digester plant}. Maybe just a touch of, why should I care, I live to far away to smell the bloody thing anyway..

An Insider said...

To all concerned.

News out this Morning that Cllr Durkin is to put out a public statement which should cause the resignations of David Bowles, Clive McGregor and Lynn Ball.

Apparently the Police have already being called in as it is believed Criminal offences have been committed.

Anonymous said...

One for the Druid! is it true that your Father run a hotel on Anglesey, and other businesses? have you got the backbone to answer this question?

Anonymous said...

Druid.
Which part of the word Anonymity does Anon at 15:21 not understand.

Has he/she got the backbone to dispose of his/hers and give name?
I doubt it very much.

The Red Flag said...

Insider - We've been through this hoop of 'X' is about to release a public statement that will nuke 'Y' so many times it's dizzying.

If he does and it has those effects then good on him and a big thank you.

Anon 15:21 - Does it matter what the Druids ancestry is? It holds no bearing on anything really does it.

For instance my father was Stoneyhurst/Cambridge and currently drives a battered Fiesta towing a little trailer doing peoples gardens despite at one time running one of the most prestigious hotels in North Wales and in Chester.

The Druid's father could have been the first man on the moon for all anyone cares.

Anonymous said...

getting verry protective again Red Flag ?