Noting the abundant debate about the programme below this thread, my only comments are the following:
- David Bowles was wrong to refuse to be interviewed. Together with Clive McGregor and Elan Closs Stephens, Bowles is one of the most important architects of the recovery process and should have no problem with defending his role in front of a camera. The programme was not a hatchet job -- in fact it made it abundantly clear that Bowles has in the past been very courageous in both routing out corruption at Lincolnshire and standing up to Labour's NHS targets. However as the vox pops in Llangefni High Street highlighted: normal residents are aghast at the salary he is paid -- and rightly so when you consider he earns roughly 2.5x the average weekly wage on Anglesey in a day. Rightly or wrongly the sheer size of his salary has made him a target for opponents and it is only right that he should have appeared and put our minds at rest that it is money well spent.
- Also, rather than focussing excessively on David Bowles' ill advised and brief stay in Parc Cefni, I would have been more interested in learning about the circumstances leading to Bowles' appointment as the highest paid civil servant in the land. Was the position advertised? How many other persons were considered for the role? How was the salary level (which is paid by Anglesey ratepayers) arrived at? If no other persons were interviewed -- and there was therefore no competitive tender -- how on earth can the highest public sector salary in Wales be justified? And, similarly, is it really wise to pay a civil servant £1000 a day, in a place where the average weekly wage is just £396 (2007 data)? These would have been more relevant questions for the programme makers to deal with.
- Another issue regarding the recovery process which would have benefitted from a more in depth discussion, is the question of whether attempting to draw a line in the sand over past problems is paying dividends. It is clear that there is still a significant number of Councillors who are unhappy with the process -- pretty much guaranteeing that normal service will be resumed just as soon as David Bowles and the recovery board head off into the sunset. Accordingly it would have been interesting to have had a discussion of alternative routes to the 'recovery'. A South African style 'Truth and Reconciliation' style tribunal is probably going too far, but I have a feeling that a full and open internal investigation into some contentious issues from the past would prove a very cathartic experience for the council.
Ultimately we should concern ourselves with what works -- and I'm not fully convinced that the current recovery process has the support of enough councillors to ensure that it will be robust. From this point of view my advice to Bowles, McGregor and Closs Stephens is this: in order to give the recovery the best possible chance of survival, appoint a new, permanent MD to work alongside Bowles as soon as possible. In order to boost morale among staff, choose someone from within the council who is acceptable to all parties (not as hard a task as some might imagine). Pay that person no more than the average wage of a council chief executive in Wales. And most importantly: recognise that the biggest challenge facing Anglesey is not just restoring confidence in the council, but helping rebuild the Island's shattered economy -- for that reason choose somebody with some creativity, imagination, and a helluva lot of business nous.