Saturday, 17 December 2011

Commissioners: agreeing 5% council tax hike crucial for returning democratic control to Ynys Môn

The Anglesey Commissioners roadmap to recovery

The Anglesey Commissioners released their second quarterly report to the Minister yesterday, covering the period July to September this year. Below are the key passages (emphasis mine):

4.1 During the Quarter, whilst Commissioners have continued to exercise the responsibilities previously reserved to the Executive, they have followed a process of gradual re-engagement of the Shadow Executive and Elected Members in the work of the Council. Relationships with Commissioners are good, and Elected Members have adopted a much more positive approach. 
4.2 Commissioners have involved Shadow Portfolio Holders in regular meetings with Officers and this has been received well, allowing constructive relationships to develop and providing mentoring for Officers and Executive Members. In this way the Executive has been re-engaged to work alongside Commissioners to observe the way in which they are operating. 
4.3 Members have also contributed effectively to building a consensus around the Corporate Plan and Budget Planning process. [...]
4.5 The experience to date is that the majority of Councillors have been supportive and have demonstrated a willingness to work with Commissioners and Officers to put the Council on a more business like footing for the future. Re- engagement will progress during Quarter 3 in order to test sustainability. 
6.0 The issues to be addressed during the next Quarter (September to December) and the longer term prospects up to May 2012 and Beyond 
6.2 The milestones for Quarter 3 will be to:- 
  • Prepare the budget strategy for 2012/2013;
  • Agree the strengthened corporate management arrangements; Establish the Improvement Board and implement the Performance
  • Management Framework;
  • Make substantial progress to improve poor performing services; Progress citizen engagement;
  • Make further progress in economic renewal;
  • Strengthen the Constitution;
  • Establish constructive relationships with Regulators;
  • Develop an agreed plan to develop the Corporate Centre; Implement risk reporting for the Council.
7.2 At this stage there are positive signs that the improvement process has commenced, but there is still a great deal of work to be done to deliver against the recommendations of inspection reports, as well as further developing the fundamental strategic issues.
7.3 The most urgent issues have been addressed and a stable platform for improvement has been created. However, the limited capacity of the corporate centre has meant that some important developments have taken longer than the Commissioners consider ideal and action has been taken to secure additional capacity. 
7.5 The Commissioners are satisfied that their 10 Key Themes will address the concerns of regulators and the perceived weaknesses identified by Commissioners, in order to secure improved services to the people of Anglesey. It is too early to say when sustainability will be achieved, but Commissioners will continue to work with Officers and Elected Members in developing their capacity and capability to resume control of the Council. 
7.6 Progress against the tasks agreed for Quarter 3 will be an indicator of when the Council is likely to be ready to return to democratic control. 
59.0 It is too early to say when sustainability will be achieved, but Commissioners will continue to work with Officers and Elected Members in developing their capacity and capability to resume control of the Council. Progress with the tasks agreed for Quarter 3 will be an indicator of whether the Council is likely to be ready to return to democratic control in the Spring of 2012.
For me two key points come out of this document:

1. There are continued references throughout the report to the weakness of the 'corporate centre' and how this has delayed improvements. The report enlarges on this point in the following section.
"The limited capacity of the corporate centre has been a factor in delaying progress in key areas. There have been continuing issues in ICT and HR and the need to make a number of interim appointments in Finance at short notice have delayed important milestones The improvement process in Children‟s Services was slowed down by the need to make interim appointments and to obtain external advice. These risks have been mitigated to some extent by the excellent quality of those inputs but this highlights the need to create a staffing structure for the future which will attract suitably skilled employees, able to met the challenges of the improvement agenda."
So this is not a problem with the councillors but with weaknesses in the permanent corporate functions themselves. Which begs the question what on earth was achieved by the two whole years of Welsh Government intervention in Ynys Môn prior to the introduction of the Commissioners — including the highest paid civil servant in Wales, David Bowles, and a whole 'Recovery Board' staffed by the Great and the Good?

2. The Commissioners will not make a recommendation as to whether the improvements are sustainable and the council is ready to return to democratic control until the end of the third quarter (i.e. after the period from October - December 2011). Furthermore, the decision will be based on councillors accepting without too much fuss the Commissioners recommended budget for 2012/13 which will controversially see council tax on Ynys Môn increasing by 5% — very likely the highest percentage rise in Wales. By witholding their decision until after December (and by making it contingent on Councillors agreeing to large council tax rises) the Commissioners seem to be purposely making a May 2012 election extremely unlikely. The lack of certainty means that with just five months until the local government polling day in May (remember Carl Sargeant hasn't yet said that the election on Ynys Môn will definitely be postponed), possible candidates aren't able to prepare properly. Indeed just this week I received an email from a someone who wants to stand as an Independent candidate at the next election. She said:
"...uncertainty about the date would make it more difficult for new people who did not have party political back-up, as they will need to start their campaigns early but they could not be certain as to the area they needed to canvass, and could not make plans to ensure that they timed their door-to-door campaign to best effect. As there are currently few women elected to the Council that would also discriminate against women being elected for the next term."
So, even if the Commissioners do decide in January that the council can be returned to democratic control, it seems likely that the very fact there will be so little time between that point and the official Wales local election date in May, it will be used as an excuse to force a very unsatisfactory postponement. 

The full report and annex are attached below.
Quarter 2 Report to Minister Appendix 3 Corporate Governance Priorities (Q2 Position)

15 comments:

kp said...

A 5% increase in council tax, as with last years increase and all previous increases, represents the price of failure. Failure to deliver services in a cost effective manner, year after year after year.

Rid us of these lamentable men and women as quickly a possible. Disband the council and get the commissioners to ask the team in Wandsworth, London, to take over.

I guarantee you a fall in council tax charges year after year after year coupled with ever improving services.

Don't ask me how they do it, ask them! Phone number: 020 8871 6000 (see Wandsworth council web site)

Prometheuswrites said...

This reminds me of earlier statements issued by both the Recovery(sic) Board and David Bowles.

On the one hand councillors seem to be the recipients of much blaming alongside denials of unsatisfactory corporate performance, yet several reports have highlighted difficulties in the corporate functions.

Prometheuswrites said...

What I've been trying to understand is the differences in the way the Annual Accounts are presented (there is a change in format in 2010-11) which makes it difficult to understand what the state of play is with Anglesey's current finances when compared to previous accounts.

The statements of accounts are available on the IOACC web-site. The important part is the balance sheet - I'm finding it very difficult to reconcile the figures from one year to the next and though (or maybe because) I'm not an accountant I find it hard to understand how a £89 million reduction (66%) in the pension liabilities has been achieved through a 'revised estimate of (falling?!?) inflation and 'positive asset returns'

Quote: "This estimate is very dependent on the assumptions used, and the reduction over the year was mostly attributed to positive asset returns and falling long term inflation expectations, and a change in the inflation index rate used to project pension increases".

There must have been quite a large overestimation in the previous years as the pension liabilities went from £69 Million (2009) to £135 Million (2010) - (this category dissapears from the 2010-11 accounts and is instead listed under 'other long term liabilities').

And as for the 'Net Worth' category - that's vanished completely - and I can't find any reference to the previous years figures for 'Net Worth' in the 2010-11 balance sheet.

Now I may be completely off the mark here; and if so can someone please point me in the right direction with a simple explanation - if not; then there may be some questions to be asked of the council's financial and executive departments that would clear these discrepancies up.

Insider said...

KP
Once a Commie, etc, etc.

Why don't you stand in the next election showing your true colors
I 'll give you odds of a million to one against wining.

The Red Flag said...

KP - you don't think all the grants that Wandsworth gets in comparison to non-London councils has any bearing on their council tax then? Nor the fact it's an urban council and thus it's compressed which helps with efficiency.

And you know where the border is if you don't like it. You're obviously poor if you think Anglesey council tax is high and the last thing we need is poor English people - we get enough of those dumped on Rhyl.

The Red Flag said...

Insider - KP is of the Right. She occupies a shadowy hinterland between the europhobe Thatcherist element of the Tory party and UKIP.

Further Right than one, not as far Right as the other.

Anonymous said...

I am a Councillor and I have read the posts here and I don't like them, it's not fair! I was on the dole and I was dossing around then I had an idea. I was always skint and I had left school with no qualifications. I was unemployable. My wife told me become a Councillor! So I did, and boy did my life change overnight. I was given a laptop and allowances for everything, I had to get decent clothes to go to meetings, these were paid for, a decent car, that was paid for, nothing too flash don't want to upset people. I was told when to attend meetings and was paid for that, every meeting was paid, even when I didn't go! The best bit was the dinner money, I could claim for my meals now, so away went the corned beef and beetroot sandwich and in came take aways and pizza's, and I got money to pay for them. I love being a Councillor. Sometimes I wish I had some land so I could get hopuses built for myself or stuff like that, maybe a house for my family and their friends, still, it's nice and easy. Better than doing nothing, oh, how I miss those days of dossing around and doing nothing, now I do the same but I get paid!

Anonymous said...

Anon

Your selling yourself short.

What about spending 3 month a year, every year, in the sun on the other side of the world whilst still getting payed?

Anonymous said...

One of the best things about being a Councillor is when members of the public ask me for help, well, what can I do? Some of them come round for a chat and a panad, this can be a it of a pain in the arse, as I don't really give a toss about them, but I have to let them have their say, and I pretend to take interest.

A phone call soon puts them right, as soon as they have left I phone the Council, and tell them that "Houston, we have a problem..Don't you just love that film with Tom Hanks in it!"

Joe Bloggs want's a copy of the such and such, or Joe Bloggs is thinking of taking the Council to court, this gives my buddies ample warning to shred evidence and prepare themselves to ignore solicitors letters and complaints.

It gives me so much pleasure to tell the Complainant that I am willing to help them and that my door is always open to them, " Sod off!" more likely.Hee hee, the smile on their stupid faces when they leave my mansion, mugs!!

The greatest perk of being a Councillor is being given automatic privileges, to fast track non- objections to any planning application, and I can use my influence to object to any neighbour that might want to extend his house or build any where.

Imagine the face of the applicant for a planning permission when he gets the knock back on his application, all I do is ask my buddies to make up a ficticious Enforcement Notice up, to my amazement, they actually ask for a copy, but that is easily dealt with, it get's lost in the system.

But the nicest perk, is when I was given membership of the local masonic lodge, and that was a real treat. I didn't realise that I could have so much power, we discuss all the problems the public have with the Council in the lodge, then after a few drinks we let our hair down and have a good laugh at joe public, who voted us in, and can't vote us out!

The commissioners have come in to tidy up the place, but we are being good boys and girls and chilling out, waiting our turn to get back at the people who moan about us all the time. I mean, what was wrong with using "public money" to help ourselves to! It's just petty minded jealous people who moan about us all the time. It's not my fault that I was voted in, the people knew what they were getting when they voted for me, why should they moan now, when I'm driving around in my new car looking down at them, I tried my best to get them jobs, but it wasn't my fault that they wouldn't move over here with their big promises of bringing jobs, it's not my fault that we are so far away and don't give a shit whether they come or not!
I'm getting annoyed at people laughing and pointing the finger at us all the time, I have a good job with allowances, you haven't, get a life stop picking on me, remember without the council you would have no jobs! and your children would all be leaving school and going straight on the dole!
Stop moaning, leave us alone, we know what we are doing, every time we go to a meeting it's important, very secret but important! Remember the bad old days of this Council, do you want them to come back? Do you want us to lose our jobs and let the Commissioners make our decisions for us and for you? It's not fair, the people of Anglesey voted us in, we do a great job, we work hard and we are always there for the people.........

Another Councillor said...

Couldn't put it better myself, But don't tell the people everything, they will all want to be Councillor's.

Councillor........

County Councillor Barrie Durkin said...

MERRY CHRISTMAS
&
A HAPPY NEW YEAR
to
EVERY ONE

kp said...

Christmas & New Year wishes reciprocated to all.

But just on another subject, am I the only one who thinks that the Powerpoint slide entitled Recovery Road Map is complete and utter tosh.

It's a 'let's all pretend to be businesslike' attempt. And yet what they don't realise is that any employee working in any business throughout this land always knows it's a time for a good old sleep when the powerpoint slides start to come out!

Happy Christmas councillors!

Prometheuswrites said...

I'm in agreement with you on that KP ...
Happy Xmas ... it's going to be an interesting new year ...

Anonymous said...

When are the Commissioners going to ask the Druid about certain people who have been victims of abuse by these Council?

Anonymous said...

Best wishes for 2012, long live the Druid!!!