Monday, 12 December 2011

Crushed: Ynys Môn and Carl Sargeant

Carl Sargeant crushes local democracy on Ynys Môn

Welsh Local Government Minister, Carl Sargeant, will be in Ynys Môn tomorrow to meet with his Commissioners — no doubt to "consult" with them on whether he should do what he has already decided to do anyway, i.e. postpone the Island's local elections for 12 months. This will allow him to ensure that when Ynys Môn residents are finally entrusted to once again exercise their right to vote — a full year after everyone else in Wales — they will vote within rushed through but entirely new boundaries and according to an electoral system which uniquely throughout Wales will be made up of only multi member wards. You see, Mr Sargeant does not like who Anglesey residents have been voting for in the past, therefore his solution for "democratic renewal" is to simply rig the electoral system on Ynys Môn so as to make it exponentially more difficult for those he doesn't like, the Independents, to get elected.

Some defend Mr Sargeant's questionable methods by arguing that it is a price worth paying to get rid of the "rot", forgetting that there are some hard-working, excellent Independent Councillors on one side and some awful Party-affiliated Councillors on the other. Unfortunately the new system will see the former punished and the latter prosper. Mr Sargeant's defenders also forget that the Island's political problems were exponentially exacerbated by the Welsh Government's previous attempt at intervention through the forced appointment of 'local government troubleshooter' David Bowles, who unfortunately did far more harm than good — indeed his highly-paid two year reign as Interim MD led directly to the appointment of the Commissioners themselves. Though to be fair to Mr Bowles at least he only said that the Commissioners should stay until 2012:

"I recommended commissioners should be appointed until elections in 2012, together with investment in democratic renewal."                                                                                     — David Bowles in March, 2011

Accordingly, the genius idea of pursuing "democratic renewal" through (a) postponing actual elections, and (b) reducing the pool of people who will find it possible to get elected is Mr Sargeant's alone. 

In the meantime, between now and when we are eventually allowed to vote again, too many important and irreversible decisions affecting everyone on Anglesey will be made by Commissioners with no democratic legitimacy or accountability. For example, successive administrations on the Island, mindful that Ynys Môn is the poorest region in the UK, have successfully managed to keep Anglesey's council tax amongst the lowest in Wales — now we discover that the Commissioners want to impose a 5% rise in our Council tax next year, quite likely the largest rise in all of Wales. Similarly, Anglesey residents will have no democratic say in what services will be cut next year, or on controversial plans to erect a rash of wind turbines across the Island, and so on and so on until May 2013.

Is this really a price worth paying in order to achieve a sham "democratic renewal" achieved through the dubious means of purposefully manipulating the Island's electoral system?

11 comments:

kp said...

Seemingly a very short memory.

Firstly, we should remind ourselves that those 'excellent Independent Councillors' have done absolutely nothing to root out 'the rot'. Indeed, by such inaction they have joined the rot and should be disposed of accordingly.

As for council tax, we have a poorly run council, a lack of planning for service delivery, a number of defunct services and a population that refuses to move elsewhere to find work. In other words, it is the council that should be paying us to live here rather than visa versa.

To keep 'Anglesey's council tax amongst the lowest in Wales' is no recommendation. Indeed, it just shows how low standards have fallen.

Poverty is pervasive. Lowering of ambition similarly so. Rejoice in your own small world and then move on. It is time this island was given a chance to reach the dizzy heights of its past glories.

I support the commissioners and their excellent work to date. We must not allow them an opportunity to ever leave!

Anonymous said...

The commissioners are doing a great PR job ... while still remaining in denial of the deep rooted problems here.

Problems with schools, social services, planning, finance and the protection of young people still exist.

Half the problem seems to be the reluctance of the Police to prosecute, even when evidence is given to them directly by Auditors and the Council.

The people who complain get either prosecuted themselves, arrested or threatened with arrest, while the Police pull out all the stops to prosecute some 4x4 driver on Snowdon.

Same as it ever was???

Anonymous said...

KP said - To keep 'Anglesey's council tax amongst the lowest in Wales' is no recommendation. Indeed, it just shows how low standards have fallen".

One minute your complaining that council tax is too high, the next that it's too low. You seem to think that unemployed people should be shipped off somewhere to get jobs (where exactly do you recommend)and that our teachers and other public servants are useless and now you want to do away with elections.
What does the P stand for - Pinochet?
Pointing out problems when youve got some suggestions for solutions is fine but just running everything and everybody down is just whinging and whining.

Insider said...

KP
Your wrong to say the Independents have done absolutely nothing to root out "the rot". In fact they are the only ones to do so.Take Cllr Durkin. he never stops rooting them out.

Paul Williams said...

KP in favour of high council tax? Thats a first.

"Firstly, we should remind ourselves that those 'excellent Independent Councillors' have done absolutely nothing to root out 'the rot'. Indeed, by such inaction they have joined the rot and should be disposed of accordingly."

I'm afraid that the overly interventionist and interfering style of David Bowles made it that task far more difficult. Measure such as...

- becoming overly involved in the politics of the council through encouraging the formation of Llais i Fôn and creating a fissure between Independents.
- enshrining the naming and shaming of two councillors within the Terms of Engagement without firstly going through due process (something which the previous Minister specifically advised against doing)
- effectively 'blackballing' a number of councillors from holding any position

...made the situation far worse than before and created antagonism where previously there was none. In this environment it was clearly not feasibly for Independents and others to work through the problems themselves.

The other important point you either ignore or are not aware of is that the problems were not purely caused by Independents — several party members also behaved appallingly and will now prosper under the new proposals.

As for the other matter I shall only say you have your facts wrong.

kp said...

Just to put matters into perspective, I am not in favour of a high or low council tax. I am in favour of 'value for money'.

This notion of a community charge is very outdated. And completely unfair on much of the population. In truth, the poll tax was a much fairer tax. But we must look forward and not back!

As I said, the commissioners have done good work and I hope they will continue to do such. The David Bowles appointment was a costly mistake, I quite agree.

My own view is that anyone associated with the council over the last fifteen or twenty years should never be allowed to hold public office again. Council mismanagement must be seen to have a price.

As for the matter of independents versus the rest, I think we must all agree that this is where the rot starts. These unaffiliated members cannot be called to account by their colleagues because they have no party colleagues. And so they continue to behave in a manner which is detrimental to the council moving forward, accountable to no-one but their narrow electorate.

We all know it, we have seen it, we see it now. Yes, fine, a couple of independents are a good thing. But no more.

As for the other matter, and to make clear, I have no facts nor knowledge of right or wrong. I merely read about it in today's Daily Post and used the information to reference my earlier thoughts on council democracy. Perhaps this was unwise. Indeed, it clearly was. And for this I now apologise.

Anonymous said...

KP says--
"As for the matter of independents versus the rest, I think we must all agree that this is where the rot starts. These unaffiliated members cannot be called to account by their colleagues because they have no party colleagues."
and further on in his report he even "apologises !!"-
Does he now intend to apologise for not knowing the difference between an "Independent" Member and an "Unaffiliated" Member ??

Tut Tut KP.I was of the opinion that you were intelligent but ......

Anonymous said...

KP
Does that stand for (k)Crack pot?

Ice Cold in Alex said...

Paul you say - "Similarly, Anglesey residents will have no democratic say in what services will be cut next year, or on controversial plans to erect a rash of wind turbines across the Island, and so on and so on until May 2013."

But I thought the Commissioners 'Final Budget Proposals' still had to be approved by the Council on March 6 2012 at County Council 6 March (Budget Setting and Council Tax Resolution) Meeting.

Also if you download the Commissioners budget proposals you will see key scrutiny dates.

As for windfarms they are dealt by Councillors on the Planning Committee, as recent report in Holyhead and Anglesey Mail of Councillors falling out amongst over planning issues shows.

Paul Williams said...

Ice Cold in Alex

"But I thought the Commissioners 'Final Budget Proposals' still had to be approved by the Council on March 6 2012 at County Council 6 March (Budget Setting and Council Tax Resolution) Meeting. "

Its a fair point, but the fact is that councillors have been told in private by the Commissioners that passing their preferred budget will be a key "test" of their maturity.
As for windfarms they are dealt by Councillors on the Planning Committee, as recent report in Holyhead and Anglesey Mail of Councillors falling out amongst over planning issues shows.

"As for windfarms they are dealt by Councillors on the Planning Committee, as recent report in Holyhead and Anglesey Mail of Councillors falling out amongst over planning issues shows."

Currently something like 50 applications have been made for erecting wind turbines on the Island and have become a controversial topic. An election in May would allow each party to set out their stance to these turbines.

Anonymous said...

2012 The year when we get carpeted with windturbines and the Pwdin Cymru get a new leader. I just wondered which of the two is the most important, the answer is none,it doesn't matter, at the end of teh day, the opinion and wants of the majority of the Island are dictated by the small minority who have ruined us all.