Yesterday David Bowles circulated the below letter from WAG Local Government Minister, Carl Sargeant, to all councillors. Writing about the recent sackings of John Chorlton and Hefin Thomas, Sargeant notes that this could "easily destabilise the Council's recovery" and "indicates that the issues [the] Council has had in the past in relation to internal disputes and personal rivalries have still not gone away".
In response Sargeant has asked the Recovery Board to give "an urgent and frank evaluation of the actual progress of [the] Council over the past 18 months and the possibility of [it] achieving a sustainable recovery" -- which is what presumably the Recovery Board's meeting with David Bowles on Monday in Treaddur Bay was all about. If the Board feels that a recovery is unlikely Sargeant warns he will take "further decisive action" which will have "grave implications for the Council as currently constituted". As this letter was written on 27th January -- the day after he forced through last minute amendments to the WAG Local Government Measure allowing for the amalgamation of "two or three" Local Authorities -- this clearly means that WAG will pursue the forced merger of Anglesey and Gwynedd councils if recovery cannot be achieved.
So what do we have to show for 18 well-paid, expensive months of David Bowles and the Recovery Board? Clive McGregor started off with a coalition of 27 councillors as head of a coalition of Original Independents and Plaid Cymru. That was reduced down to a coalition of 20 following the "coup" in June when the Original Independents were split and a new coalition was formed between Llais i Fôn, Plaid Cymru, Labour and the Menai Group. Those numbers have eroded gradually over time as Keith Evans left the Menai Group and, lets be honest, some Plaid Cymru members never really had their heart in it anyway as they refused to sign the Terms of Engagement. Clive's recent sacking of John Chorlton and Hefin Thomas from the executive (but not from the Alliance) means that their actual number of supporters is now well below a majority level -- which almost guarantees the kind of conflict we are now seeing. In response Ieuan Wyn Jones and Albert Owen, having belatedly woken up to the problems at the Council, have tried to engineer an Alliance between Labour and Plaid Cymru with either Bob Parry or John Chorlton as Leader -- they then seemed surprised that the Independents, who between them have a majority, do not see why they should have a Leader and Deputy forced on them from a Labour and Plaid alliance that anyway only has 13 members... It appears we have mostly been going backwards not forwards on the political front over the last 18 months.
Anyway, one thing is clear: if Councillors do not wish to see their numbers dramatically reduced as part of a forced merger with Gwynedd Council -- which will also have severe consequences for both Anglesey County Council employees and Anglesey residents -- then now is the time for them to put the greater good of Ynys Môn ahead of all other considerations. Past grievances must be put aside and all councillors must find a way to work together and show that Ynys Môn as a unitary authority is worth saving.
Carl Sargeant Letter