After having already leaked over the weekend his intention to postpone the local elections in Ynys Môn to 2013, the Minister for Local Government Carl Sargeant now officially announces that he is "minded" to do so. His full statement is below.
Some have argued that this is no bad thing; the Commissioners are doing such a good job, they say, lets have another year of them.
I'm afraid I'm not so sure and would instinctively prefer to see local democracy restored on Ynys Môn as soon as is feasible.
Why? Becasue although the Commissioners have undoubtedly brought about some improvements, there is one important area where they are clearly not making headway and that is in finding the savings mandated in the council's Affordable Priorities programme. Ynys Môn must find £10 million savings over four years, and the Affordable Priorities plan — pushed through by our own councillors before the introduction of Commissioners — was an entirely sensible programme to find £3 million in savings this year in a way which avoided cuts to popular services such as leisure centres, swimming pools, libraries and so on. We now know that the council is £1 million behind in finding these savings, which will almost certainly mean deeper cuts affecting popular services will need to be made next year. And now, seeing how the the local elections will be delayed until May 2013, the decisions on what to cut will be made by unelected Commissioners leaving Islanders with no democratic involvement in the process.
By contrast, were the local elections to proceed in Ynys Môn next May (or shortly thereafter), it would have presented the various candidates and parties the ideal opportunity to set out their stall with regards to what they would cut if elected, thus giving the electorate a powerful say in how the cuts are directed. As it stands, however, there will be no opportunity at all for the public to effectively engage until May 2013 and whatever cuts are made in the intrim will not only be deeper because the Commissioners have failed to deliver the necessary savings this year, but will also be decided upon solely by these same unelected 'technocrats' who are answerable to nobody.
(Tangentially, its instructive to learn that one of this year's largest overspends, £344,000 in the Education budget reportedly relating to supply staff costs during the senseless dispute at Ysgol Goronwy Owen in Benllech, was another episode in which the Commissioners failed to cover themselves in glory as the sorry saga dragged on un-resolved for months.)
Sargeant statement on YM elections
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