Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Carl Sargeant, the Welsh Minister for Local Government, announced today that he could see light at the end of the Anglesey Tunnel. The Welsh Government's intervention on Ynys Môn will begin to be phased back from the end of September, said Sargeant, from which time power will gradually be transferred back to our own councillors. A smaller number of commissioners will stay on to oversee and advise, whilst members of the Executive will begin to receive their senior salaries again.

He applauds himself at the end of his statement by saying, "if Councillors and officers carry on showing the same commitment as they have so far, we will be able to complete a fundamental and swift turnaround on Anglesey in little over two years", conveniently forgetting the two previous years of Welsh Government intervention under David Bowles when things when badly backwards.

The full statement below.
Title: Isle of Anglesey County Council
Date: 9 May 2012
By: Carl Sargeant, Minister for Local Government and Communities

Last February, I updated the Assembly on the progress that the Isle of Anglesey County Council was making under the stewardship of my Commissioners. I was cautiously optimistic about the prospects for reducing and ending my intervention in the medium term.

Events since then have shown that that optimism was justified. My Commissioners have concluded that while there remain some concerns about the Council’s governance, there are no longer any serious risks. The Auditor General has reached a similar view, and recommended that I should begin planning how to end my intervention.

I agree with and accept the views of both. There is increasing evidence that a Council that was once a byword for misbehaviour, under-performance and petty squabbling is now concentrating effectively and consistently on the issues that matter to the island. Differences remain, as they always will in any democratic organisation. But the days of petty personal rivalries dominating the Council’s business seem to be largely over.

Recent developments have underlined that. In March, the Council had to set a budget and council tax rate in very difficult financial circumstances: it has operated on a shoestring for many years and has much less scope to make savings than many other local authorities. Yet Councillors approached that challenge with real maturity. They engaged fully with the Commissioners in formulating a draft budget and passed it almost unanimously after a sensible and focused debate. That would have been impossible just over a year ago.

There have also been problems with the proposed development of Wylfa B, when the leading companies withdrew. The potential that Wylfa B has for the economic regeneration of the island means that is undoubtedly a major setback for the island. But the response from the Council has been sensible and serious, with a strong mutual interest in securing fresh involvement from another company. There have been none of the recriminations and accusations that we would have seen in the past.

Finally, Councillors have been working with the Commissioners, the WLGA and my officials to overhaul the Council’s constitution and to make sure that it embeds and sustains some of the improvements we have seen. Again, those discussions have been highly positive and productive. They have yielded some radical changes which will strengthen good governance and which other local authorities may well want to emulate. They have also been free of the jockeying for personal advantage which so bedevilled Council politics in the past. Indeed, one of the main aims of the changes is to prevent that from ever happening again. It is clear that almost everyone wants to move on.

That intention is sincere and commendable, but I am not yet convinced that the Council is able to fulfil it alone. I have said before that the recovery will not be complete until we have renewed democracy on the island, and until elections take place on terms which are more likely to yield a representative and accountable council. That cannot happen until next year.

The Council also needs to finish recruiting a new and strengthened senior management team to bring stability, capacity and expertise; and to tackle some intractable problems of service delivery. Progress so far on this has been very good, with a high level of interest from some highly-qualified and well-regarded public servants. But until that team is in place and clearly functioning well, I cannot be sure that the recovery will be sustained.

I will therefore be extending my direction to the Council from the end of May to the end of September, to allow that recruitment to finish. Commissioners will remain in full control until then. If at that point they and I are content that the senior team is ready to take charge, and if progress elsewhere continues to be maintained, then I will start bringing my intervention to an end.

That would initially mean reducing the Commissioners’ presence and responsibilities. Councillors would resume control, subject to being overridden by Commissioners if they proposed to act unwisely or unreasonably. Commissioners would also support councillors and officers; and they would continue to monitor progress and advise me on that. I will discuss with my Commissioners the level of their personal involvement under this approach; but it is unlikely to entail having five Commissioners with a continuous presence in the Council.

As a consequence, I will also be asking the Independent Remuneration Panel to consider restoring senior salaries for members of the Council’s executive. I withdrew these last year when I transferred the executive’s powers to Commissioners; it can only be right that they are returned in some form if and when those powers are handed back.

This approach will allow us to test the sustainability of change in a controlled environment. It will mean an early return to local decision-making, with appropriate safeguards. If that proves successful, I should be able to end my intervention completely soon after next year’s elections.

Those elections will take place using new boundaries, and I expect to receive the Local Government Boundary Commission’s final proposals on those boundaries shortly. Many within the Council did not support their initial proposals. They are of course also free to oppose the final proposals: they will have at least six weeks to make representations to me. I will consider all constructive representations seriously; and I trust that in approaching this issue, Councillors will display the same maturity as they have on other major issues recently.
All I am doing now is making appropriate plans to phase out my intervention. I could restore the Commissioners’ full powers at any time, and will do so if the recovery stalls or if Councillors prove unable or unwilling to resume proper control.

On the other hand, if progress continues under the Commissioners’ stewardship, and if Councillors and officers carry on showing the same commitment as they have so far, we will be able to complete a fundamental and swift turnaround on Anglesey in little over two years. I look forward to being able to do so.

I will make a further statement to the Assembly in due course.


The Red Flag said...

Anglsey would be better served by the homeless drunks from Platform 2 than half of that collection of corrupted gits and other assorted dross.

One of the few succesful and noble things the WG has done to date was stop the Councillors dead in their worthless tracks.

Sadly, we will have an election next year and probably half of the muppets will get a seat. Personally I'd have supported cancelling the elections until either every sitting councillor was dead or Gwynedd took over.


If they won't give that guarentee laugh in their face and slam the door on them - they aren't worth bothering with.

228FPA said...

Once the Commissioners have gone and local elections have taken place we'll have the same rat pack back in place.

The rats can wait until the Commissioners have gone.

kp said...

Somewhat bemused. But no matter, this is Wales after all!

Anyone know what has become of the 'Barry Durkin/IoACC' misunderstanding?

Anonymous said...

Why haven't the Commissioners spoken out? why are they so silent? They are not very vocal as long as they get their wages, maybe it's time for a song!
Yma o Hyd, etc, etc

Anonymous said...

Could someone please inform the readers/ followers of this blog, what the point of the Welsh Assembly is?
What I can't get my head around is this? Is the Assembly for or against the People of Wales, as far as I am aware, it seems to be a club for the elite, and when it comes to serious matters like jobs and homes, the whole lot seems to fall in on it's self and disappears up it's own arse.

228FPA said...

The WAG serves no point at all save to provide jobs for "THE FEW" - in fact far too many - since inception education in Wales has hit rock bottom and many other of our services now lag well behind our neighbours.

The money gobbled up by the Assembly and its entourage could have been put to far better use for the services of the Welsh people.

Give a politician an inch - he wants a light year.

Anonymous said...

Because of our own weaknesses and inability to fight back, our own lack of moral fibre, we have a system that has deprived us of our right to vote and an Assembly that has been created not for the people, but for the Comrades who chose a path of Politics, not to help the people, but to help themselves.

The legacy of this Assembly is failure on all counts. What we do today will be remembered in the future, and what have we done? Nothing.

We have allowed Carl Sargeant and his bunch of misfits to dictate everything, when the reality was simple, we should had protested to get rid of this Council, and demanded a new Council be installed.
What did we have?
Commissioners, sent in to sweep the problems under the carpet. We will never learn, we are in the abyss and that's where we will stay, until someone with balls comes along and tells the world what a mess we have in Anglesey.
Carl Sargeant and the Assembly thiink everything is ok, I tell you, nothing could be further from the truth.

Mochyn Mon Ar Wasgar said...

So the asylum's being handed back to the Lunatics to run again!? Two years wasted while the original problem, the clique of self-serving troublemakers are still there. No amount of gerrymandering the electoral districts will make a blind bit of difference while they can still exert their malign influence over the running of the Council.

Anonymous said...

And yet the vote went in favour of more powers for the WAG makes you wonder who is voting for all this stuff,myself I think they should get rid of the WAG and sack all our present councillors

228FPA said...

Give the WAG all the power it wants so that S4C can run a Welsh based satire on:-

"Ia, Gweinidog" and "Ia, Prif Weinidog" with the Welsh equivalent of "Syr Hwmffri", "Bernad" et all.

At least then the WAG will provide some useful hilarity but God knows what the cost will be though.

Maes Llwyn said...

Technocracy -v- Democracy ?
Given the deep-rooted Anglesey problem, I prefer Commissioner technocracy any day !