It has transpired that the Anglesey Recovery Board advised WAG Local Government Minister Carl Sargeant AGAINST sending in the Commissioners, their final report reveals.
The Recovery Board last convened on January 31st, 2011, and made their own recommendations to Carl Sargeant on how to deal with the new instability at the Council following the failed attempt to force out Leader Clive McGregor at the beginning of January. Until this week WAG had refused to release this final report.
Here are some of the key passages:
"...the Council has made progress under intervention. But overall ... a sustainable recovery is not reasonably foreseeable by August, at least. There may be a better chance of this by May 2012; but in view of the speed at which power and loyalties shift within the council and the significant impact that can have, we cannot predict that with confidence."
On what they feel should be the appropriate response:
"We are equally clear that this situation demands some more stringent form of intervention. This should not be a matter of punishing councillors but rather of ensuring that continued instability does not obstruct or detract from tackling the serious strategic, financial and delivery challenges facing the island. In other words, any further action needs to address to the particular problems we have identified. It also needs to encourage, rather than abandon, some of the positive progress and willingness that we have seen."
"...we believe that, on balance, councillors should not be absolved of all decision-making responsibility. That would be unfair on those who have shown genuine commitment to the recovery so far. "
"...retaining some form of decision-making within the council would require councillors to develop and demonstrate a more mature approach to their responsibilities, which would in turn inform a future decision on ending the intervention."
However this is what the Recovery Board had to say about 'further direction', i.e. sending in commissioners:
"we detect a real risk that some councillors could exploit a further direction for their own political ends and thus enhance their chances of re-election in 2012 on a platform of resisting external control. That sort of continued antagonism cannot be in the interests of the island and its citizens. Further action needs to require councillors to change their ways; anything which encouraged them to portray themselves as victims or martyrs could be counter-productive."
This advice, of course, was ignored by Carl Sargeant who anyway decided to send in Commissioners.
So what form of 'more stringent' intervention did the Recovery Board recommend? Read on:
- Reconstituting and renaming the Recovery Board as an Intervention Board, which would adopt a more directly challenging approach to the Council and its executive.
- The Board should hold the council officers and executive to account on a number of clearly defined issues regularly and in public. Each of these issues to have specific measurable targets and time limits.
- The Board should reserve the right to call in some decisions and ask the executive to think again. This should be limited to major concerns where we think there is undue delay or where an inappropriate decision is about to be made.
- The Board should be supported by staff, external to the authority, who will identify issues for discussion and provide evidence to be used in reviewing and challenging decisions. There may be some financial provision in the Council’s own budget for training and corporate renewal.
- The Board should report publicly and regularly on its work, rather than just making its reports to the Minister available. This might involve a web page or a column in the local press.
- The Board and the Council (with the involvement of the Electoral Commission and the main political parties as appropriate) should develop a clear strategy and set of actions to support democratic renewal.
- An end date should be agreed with David Bowles and the search for a new interim chief executive should begin now. The power to appoint a chief executive should remain with the Minister, and consideration should be given to withdrawing the power also to appoint other statutory officers. This would enhance the seriousness of the intervention.
- Better and more dedicated support should be provided in council and committee meetings to ensure adherence to procedure and guarantee that all members are fairly heard.
- A review of the concept of Energy Island should take place to determine the Council’s fitness to handle such a major project now and in the future.
- If this approach does not succeed over a six month period the natural next stage would be the formal withdrawal of executive functions from the Council.
Considering that the members of the Recovery Board had been meeting with all parties over a period of 18 months it is undeniable that they were best placed to advise the Minister on the most appropriate action following January's instability. However Carl Sargeant decided to completely disregarded their recommendations. Why?
Read the whole report below: