I made the point to the First Minister that although this latest intervention was necessary, it has effectively brought about the suspension of local democracy on Ynys Môn at exactly the time when Island services will need to be rationalised. Accordingly, as nobody can be held democratically accountable for the decisions made, it is essential that residents have absolute confidence in the abilities of the Commissioners and the process by which they were appointed. In my opinion, and in the opinion of other residents I have spoken to, the appointment of Mr Aldridge fails both of these tests.
Firstly, whilst Mr Aldridge was the Leader of Flintshire County Council, it suffered numerous and serious failures of corporate governance (including this one) which make the goings on at Anglesey Council appear like child's play in comparison.
Secondly, because its appears that the usual Nolan guidelines for the selection of Ministerial appointments have not been followed. Mr Aldridge is known to be a friend and associate of Mr Sargeant's and the public perception, rightly or wrongly, is of one Labour politician from Flintshire appointing another Labour politician from Flintshire to a public-funded position without seemingly having followed the correct procedures. Surely this is not the way in which the Welsh Assembly Government should be bringing about a “democratic renewal” in a place like Ynys Môn?
My letter has generated a furious response from the First Minister. Regarding my first point, he writes:
"You allege that he is not suitable appointee because of certain matters which occurred within Flintshire County Council around ten years ago. I do not think it reasonable to blame the leader of a council for the detail of how the Council's maintenance stores operate and similar matters. Nor can it be right to drag up old issues which have long since resolved and use them to attack people who have much else to offer."
I'm afraid I don't think it 'unreasonable'. And, as it happens, it is not just I who has questioned Mr Aldridge's appointment considering the numerous failings at Flintshire under his watch. Even the national magazine, Private Eye, raised its eyebrow at Mr Aldridge's appointment in last week's Rotten Borough's column (sadly not online).
Regarding my second point the First Minister writes:
"[Mr Aldridge] and the other Commissioners were appointed because of their experience and expertise ... All Commissioners were selected following a process of shortlisting, sifting and interviewing on the basis of objective criteria, and all of this was managed by Assembly Government officials who have no loyalty to any party or constituency."
But then goes on to negate everything he has just written by adding,
"The very urgent nature of the situation meant that it was impossible to follow a longer or more formal process, and that is widely accepted practice."
Huh? Did the interviews take place or not? How many people were interviewed? Why was it urgent? We know that Sargeant sat on this report for weeks before acting on or releasing it to the public. He had plenty of time to follow the correct procedures, but instead gets around due process by claiming it was "urgent" – which, incidentally, was exactly the same excuse which WAG used for not having advertised or followed a more formal process for David Bowles' appointment.
Anyway, just to round off his letter, the First Minister writes:
"The early signs of [the appointment of the Commissioner] are very promising, with both members and officers of the Council working well with the Commissioners to restore good governance. But the kind of negative personality politics that you use in your letter has contributed significantly to Anglesey's current problems and I cannot accept it being applied to our commissioners too".
So there you are: if you dare to raise any valid concerns about the suitability of our new Commissioners you get accused of "negative personality politics". Is this really the level of debate we want in this country?