This People’s Manifesto for Ynys Môn, an open experiment in rural wiki-government, has been put together from the literally thousands of comments posted by various Anglesey residents on The Druid Blog.
It can be seen as an honest attempt by normal habitants – people of all political persuasions who love their home Island but have become increasingly frustrated by the inward focus of the County Council and the aloofness of their elected AM and MP – to fill the vision and policy void left by Anglesey’s elected representatives.
This People’s Manifesto proves that Anglesey residents are fully engaged with both the Island’s current problems and are passionate about finding practical, workable solutions. However, as the minuscule attendances at the recent Hawl i Holi meetings held by the Anglesey County Council Executive prove, residents no longer view the County Council as being either relevant or able to deliver the leadership and change which the Island needs. Having said that it is important to note that a huge number of the comments received on The Druid Blog during the formulation of this document related to ideas on how to improve the Council; accordingly it is also clear that Anglesey residents do want their Council to be able to work for them – they just feel that the Council as currently constituted is unable to do so.
This People’s Manifesto is not focussed on any single issue, but instead provides clear policy proposals across all of the below topics:
- Council Management
- Economic Development
- Highways, Transportation and Maritime
- Housing (including Affordable Housing)
- Wylfa B
- Eduction & Leisure
- Social Services
- Environment, Property and Smallholdings
- Isle of Anglesey Charitable Trust
- Provision of Council Services
- Town Improvement Grants & Empty Home Grants.
The final thing to note is that the production of this Manifesto has not involved any expensive consultants, nor has it taken endless reviews and years to finalise. From start to finish it took only a little over two months, and the only cost has been the time of the contributors on the blog.
However, before going on to the Manifesto itself, it is necessary to first take a look at the current state of the Island.
The current state of Ynys Môn
It is not an overstatement to say that Ynys Môn is currently facing its largest crisis in generations. It is time for all of Anglesey’s elected representatives (including our AM, our MP, and all of our County Councillors) to fully recognise the seriousness of the Island’s problems as set out below:
- Anglesey is the poorest sub-region in the United Kingdom with the lowest Gross Value Added (GVA) per head in the United Kingdom. At £10,998 per head, Anglesey’s GVA is just 55.1 per cent of the UK’s average.
- Anglesey is poorer than some of the poorest parts of rural Poland according to the 2009 OECD Factbook.
- Data for full-time employees show that average earnings in Anglesey were approx. £396 per week in 2007, compared with £415 per week in Wales and £456 per week in the UK. It should be noted that gross average earnings on the Island were distorted by wages paid to employees at Wylfa and Anglesey Aluminium, which are substantially higher than other wages in the area.
- However we don't have to worry about Anglesey Aluminium distorting average earnings on the Island anymore because it was forced to close in 2009 wiping out at least 450 direct jobs and an estimated further 240 jobs through indirect and induced effects.
- In addition Anglesey has also lost Octel in Amlwch, Eaton Electric in Holyhead (240 jobs), Peboc in Llangefni (100 jobs), Menai Electrical in Gaerwen (50 jobs), Readileads (35 jobs) and Vion/Welsh Country Foods has restructured in Llangefni and Gaerwen (191 jobs). These are on top of the countless other jobs lost at small businesses throughout the Island which aren’t reported in the local press.
- In fact, according to research by the University of Wales, since 2001 there has been a decrease of 2,100 jobs in private sector employment on Anglesey and the proportion of those employed in the private sector has decreased from 74 per cent to 67 per cent.
- Anglesey is currently suffering from an employment ‘triple whammy’, with the lowest level of employment coupled with the highest rates of job-seekers claimants and economic inactivity in North Wales (see box below).
- Remarkably farming in North Wales has fared even worse than business. During the period 1997 to 2007, the economic contribution of agriculture to the North Wales and Anglesey economy fell by a staggering 67 per cent compared to an overall UK decline of just 7 per cent.
- On top of all this, Anglesey County Council is poorly managed, riven with infighting, and planning on raising Council Tax by 15% over three years.
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Anglesey County Council isn’t working
Faced with problems like this Anglesey cannot afford a County Council which does not function. Unfortunately that is exactly what we have. Indeed Anglesey County Council has a long history of not being properly run as highlighted in the 2009 Auditor General’s report on Anglesey County Council:
“There is a history of personality politics based around mistrust, suspicion and personal animosity. Attempting to deal with it saps a huge amount of energy and distracts people, including successive Managing Directors, from the major issues of providing the Council with a real sense of direction, a strategy for continuous improvement and a means of achieving efficiency savings at a time of increasing financial constraint.
“The majority of councillors are well motivated in their approach to Council business and it important to recognise their contribution, but their efforts have not been enough to counteract poor behaviour by a small number of councillors over a significant period of time.
“Conflict has led to a rift between political and managerial leadership, preventing the corporate management team from exercising its legitimate role of challenging and supporting members in developing policy and direction.
“Also, twelve months after the current Executive came into power there is still no agreed sense of direction or comprehensive and consistent policy framework. Successive administrations have been characterised by the pursuit of a number of internally focussed issues.
“Weak political group structures contribute to a lack of control and sanction at the Council. Weak self regulation has also created a culture that not only tolerates inappropriate behaviour but is seen by some to reward it. The Council’s reputation has been seriously damaged by these problems, which has undermined public confidence in the Council’s ability to run its affairs properly.”
As the Auditor General correctly identifies, one of the major reasons why Anglesey County Council is dysfunctional is because our councillors lack both a shared vision for the Island and a policy roadmap of how to get there. This is in large part due to a significant number of Independents who are elected without issuing to voters in their wards either individual or group manifestos, i.e. a statement of where they stand on various issues and what they should like to do if elected. Such a situation is intolerable because:
- Voters are denied the opportunity to vote on a political vision and set of policies – instead they must try to make their decision based only on the personalities of the candidates. However when you consider that the current average councillor to elector ratio on Anglesey is 1:1,270 people, it is laughable to think that each of those 1,270 voters are able to make an informed decision on the personalities of each of the candidates. Furthermore this situation will worsen at the next council elections when, following Local Government Boundary Commissions changes, the number of councillors will be reduced from 40 to 35, and the councillor to elector ratio will increase to an average of 1:1,451 people.
- Independents, once elected, are effectively accountable to nobody but themselves and are certainly not constrained by any kind of group manifesto or ‘party discipline’. As a result they are free to behave pretty much as they please – leading to the myriad problems of ill discipline we are currently witnessing at the council.
- Independents do attach themselves to a number of opaque groupings (the Original Independents, the Menai Group, Anglesey Forward, and, recently, Llais i Fôn), however these groupings also fail to (i) produce or publicise their aims or policies; and (ii) often fail to impose any form of ‘party discipline’. As such they are better regarded as ‘factions’ not ‘parties’.
- As voters do not know in detail what they are voting for, it is impossible for them to then evaluate their councillor’s performance when the next council elections come around.
We note that the WAG Local Government Minister has now required that all of these groupings be required to produce a statement of their aims and values. This is a step in the right direction – however as of April 2010, only Menai Group had reportedly completed this task10; and as of the release of this People’s Manifesto (July 2010), none of the groupings have released any finalised “statements of Aims and Values” to Anglesey residents.
Accordingly this People’s Manifesto aims to give both individual Councillors and Groups an insight into the demands of their voters and a resource for them to use when compiling their own Statements of Aims and Values. Accordingly we encourage Councillors to plagiarise this document as much as they like!
The People’s Manifesto
1. Council Management
The people of Anglesey want a Local Authority they can be proud of, not ashamed of. Unfortunately we currently have the latter. Action needs to be taken over and above the recommendations of the Welsh Assembly appointed Recovery Board for the Council to regain the trust of all of Anglesey’s residents. The watchwords need to be: Transparency, Openness, and Cost Effectiveness.
- All Parties and Political Groupings must publish an updated and Anglesey-specific manifesto of their aims and values at least two months prior to local elections. To save costs these can be hosted on the Anglesey County Council website.
- All Independent candidates standing to become County Councillors in Local Elections must either:
- state which Political Grouping they intend to join if elected; or
- publish a personal manifesto of their aims and values at least two months prior to local elections.
- All new Councillors must attend a formally-arranged schedule of training on local government best practice and good governance, including an introduction to all relevant legislation affecting them. Existing Councillors should also attend regular refresher courses. Attendance should be seen as a mandatory pre-condition to continuing as a Councillor.
- The functions of running of the Council and policing of the Council should be separated by establishing an ‘Anglesey Good Governance Commission’. This commission should pick up from where the current Welsh Assembly Anglesey Recovery Board leaves off. Any complaints not satisfactorily resolved by the Council (including Freedom of Information requests) should be referred to this Commission. It should be led by someone from outside Anglesey who has not been tainted by recent problems.
- Committee Members and Chairs should be reshuffled at least on an annual basis (especially the controversial Planning committee) to increase transparency and reduce claims of cronyism and bias.
- Chairs and vice chairs of committees should be elected by secret ballot, by full Council.
- In order to continually renew the Council with new talent, ensure the flow of fresh thinking, and reduce the potency of past conflicts, the council should investigate the feasibility of: (a) introducing term limits for elected councillors; (b) introducing compulsory retirement of sitting councillors at the first local council elections after they reach the age of 65; (c) encouraging more people (in particular women) to stand at council elections though explaining the procedures better either online or through arranging suitable seminars.
- In order to eliminate potential conflicts of interest, Councillors who are members of the Executive Board should not also be a Governors of a school.
- Anglesey residents are currently being asked to pay one of the largest Council Tax rises in the country whilst Council services are being cut. Accordingly the Council needs to explore all ways of making it more cost-effectiveness, including investigating the feasibility of entering into partnership arrangements with neighbouring authorities in order to reduce cost, duplication and functions (for example by sharing Chief Officers).
- There should be a critical review of senior officers. Many are seen as being ineffectual, indifferent, lazy and/or arrogant towards the public and Members alike; the Council may like to consider a scheme of early voluntary retirement.
- New officers should be recruited who are proactive and ambitious, through a nationwide recruitment drive.
- There must be complete transparency regarding the salaries of senior Council officers over certain threshold – no ifs, no buts.
- The major reason behind Anglesey County Council’s proposed 15% rise in council tax over the next three years is due to Anglesey receiving the joint smallest increase in its annual settlement from the Welsh Assembly Government this year. Despite being the poorest sub-region in Wales, Anglesey was awarded a ‘derisory’ 1% increase compared to rises of 3.1% for Newport and 2.9% for Cardiff City. This is due the fact that the Welsh Assembly determines the annual settlements based not on need but on population. Anglesey County Council, in conjunction with our AM and MP, must lobby the Welsh Assembly to review its formula to take into account need.
- The Council should investigate the feasibility of devolving certain powers down to local community/parish councils. Wherever possible, the decisions which effect residents everyday life should be taken as close as possible to them. Furthermore Councillors should attend local Parish Council meetings within their wards as a matter of course.
- Anglesey residents need to be given improved control over setting the priorities of our local police. For example there is strong public support for more visible policing in Anglesey’s major towns on Friday and Saturday evenings.
- A fundamental re-design and re-structuring of the Anglesey County Council website is necessary to make it easier to navigate and find relevant information. The new web site should be fully compliant with the measures included within the Disability Discrimination Act. The current website largely ignores the needs of disabled persons.
2. Economic Development
Having lost over 2,000 private sector jobs in a very short period of time. Anglesey needs jobs and economic development has to be the absolute priority of Anglesey County Council. However, the council needs to completely rethink its current economic development strategies as they are clearly failing and the Economic Development Department is widely seen as lacking entrepreneurial experience and flair.
- The council’s economic development policies towards town centres in particular have been disastrous. The increasing number of large supermarkets which have been granted permission to open in the majority of Anglesey’s main towns have gradually led to the decline and closure of many local shops and have destroyed as many jobs as they have created. They have also led to a “hollowing out” of Anglesey’s town centres. A new approach is needed which recognises that sustainable, long-term economic growth will only come from funding unique developments which attract visitors and shoppers from outside the Island - not from generic developments, like supermarkets or retail parks, which do not attract outside visitors and merely cannibalise existing businesses. An example of a ‘unique’ development which could have the potential to attract visitors from outside the Island and not cannibalise existing businesses is given in the Tourism section below.
- Accordingly a public and independent review should be held into (a) the effectiveness of the current policies being implemented by Anglesey County Council’s Economic Development Department; and (b) its leadership and staffing. This review should highlight failures and make recommendations for the future.
- An Advisory Panel made up of leading Anglesey business and professional people should be set up which can: (a) undertake the above review; (b) advise and review the policies of the Economic Development Department as it moves forward; (c) Encourage innovation and experimentation regarding policy; (d) Mentor the head of department.
- Furthermore the Council needs to recognise that the Island’s economic future rests on promoting and supporting multitudes of small businesses - not just one or two large employers. Accordingly the Council must: (a) avoid supporting developments which merely contribute to the cannibalisation of sales from existing small businesses and shops; (b) prioritise reducing the bureaucracy and costs involved in running small businesses on the Island; (c) provide meaningful and high-quality support to encourage both the growth of existing small businesses and the establishment of new ventures.
- Anglesey is a recipient of both Welsh Assembly and European Union funding earmarked for regenerating communities, e.g. the ‘Three Towns Fund’. In deciding how to use these funds to regenerate town centres, the Council must as a matter of course constructively consult with local people and responsible civic groups (e.g. Cwmni Tref Llangefni). Consultation should mean real consultation – not sham-consultation exercises where local people are asked for their opinions after the Council’s Economic Development Department has already decided (with the help of expensive external consultants) how to spend the funds.
- Anglesey’s location on the periphery of the United Kingdom makes the provision of excellent internet connections an absolute necessity. However the ‘Anglesey Connected’ programme has only delivered high speed connections to specific centres whilst many Island communities still suffer from appallingly slow data transfer rates, which hinder business, learning, and entertainment activities. The Council must aggressively promote broadband speed improvements for the whole Island.
- The inward migration of forward thinking entrepreneurs should be promoted.
- Better training opportunities should also be promoted on the Island.
Anglesey has been blessed with incredible scenery, fascinating and diverse historical remains, and over 120 miles of coastline. Yet, despite this, our Island currently punches below its weight in attracting tourists - as highlighted by the fact that the majority of day tourists brought to Holyhead by cruise ships currently get on coaches and travel right off the Island for day trips to Caernarfon and Betws-y-Coed. Anglesey does not suffer from a lack of things for tourists to do and see – what it suffers from is a lack of imagination in understanding and promoting what we have.
- In the immediate short term Anglesey must develop a tourism strategy specifically designed to attract visitors from Liverpool, Manchester, the Midlands and elsewhere in North Wales – i.e. people who live within 2½ hours drive of the Island. This can only be achieved by understanding what makes Anglesey unique and then promoting that uniqueness relentlessly.
- Anglesey’s uniqueness lies in the fact that it is a rural island with over 120 miles of coastline – this uniqueness needs to be promoted by the strategic, long-term positioning of Anglesey as an ideal destination for water sports such as yachting, surfing, fishing and so forth. These are activities which are ideally suited to Anglesey yet are currently woefully underdeveloped. Council support should be available to any private sector businesses which wish to promote water sports. Furthermore a ‘big event’ such as a “Around Anglesey Yacht Race” should be considered as a strategic investment and opportunity to draw attention to the Island whilst also promoting its uniqueness.
- Promote Anglesey’s unique prehistoric, Celtic, and Druidic past by developing a high quality visitor centre / museum to provide more information and better access at Barclodiad Y Gawres or Bryn Celli Ddu.
- The treasures found at Llyn Cerrig Bach when clearing earth for a runway at RAF Valley during the second world war represent some of the finest Celtic Iron Age implements ever discovered in Europe. However, they have been housed in Cardiff at the National Museum of Wales since their discovery. Cardiff already has enough tourists and visitors. Anglesey should campaign for the Llyn Cerrig Bach treasures to be permanently returned to the Island in order to boost much needed tourism here.
- All promotions should be measured for degree of success.
- Bring an end to the proliferation of poorly-managed Anglesey tourism/attractions web sites that gives a confused and generally inadequate view of the island’s image and attractions. Create a privately-run ‘official’ site, paid for partly from advertising, partly from subsidy, containing regularly-updated and reliable information to those who wish to visit – and spend. The Council’s current efforts are inadequately presented and maintained.
- Anglesey’s windmills should be restored and promoted rather than closed down. Anglesey was called Môn Mam Cymru due to its flour production and therefore these windmills are an important part of our Island heritage.
- The Council should consider promoting the creation of a unique, big attraction somewhere on the Island which combines Anglesey’s strengths (its suitability as a water sports venue coupled with its proximity to the Snowdonia National Park) and has the potential to attract new visitors from Liverpool, Manchester, the Midlands and elsewhere in North Wales - without cannibalising existing businesses in the way, for example, a retail park would. One suggestion would be something like a ‘Centre Parc’ crossed with the ‘Eden Project’ crossed with the ‘Coed y Brenin’ Mountain Biking Centre. Such an attraction could offer visitors boating, walking, riding, various cycling paths, swimming pools with slides and waves, etc. - and all within a short distance from other activities in Snowdonia National Park. The facility would also offer tiered accommodation and a network of shops and restaurants. The council’s role would be to identify a suitable site, provide access roads, car parks, drainage, and then find a suitable private company to build and operate the site. The old Shell site at Rhosgoch might be a suitable location for this attraction - it belongs to the council, has remained unused for 20 years, is fairly tranquil and is close to the sea. I modestly propose that the attraction should be called ‘Parc Derwydd / Druid Park’.
- There has been a large increase in horse ownership on the island leading to many interesting touristic possibilities. The council should investigate the possibility of introducing a ‘horse bridleway’ around the coast of the island, including overnight stabling.
- Promote the existing policies to control light pollution by installing only down-shining lamps to create a dark sky, but not dark streets. Tranquility-seeking tourism, including the enjoyment of a truly dark, starry sky, is big business – and Anglesey needs that money. Indeed Anglesey is already attracting attention for its sky thanks to the success of John Rowlands’ ‘Notilucent Cloud Experiment’, currently being conducted from Llanbadrig Church. Rowlands is one of the four finalists of this year’s BBC Radio 4 “So you want to be a scientist” competition.
4. Highways, Transportation and Maritime (including the Port of Holyhead)
Anglesey’s location on the periphery of the United Kingdom has a direct effect on business development and tourism on the Island. Accordingly it is essential to recognise that improved transport links which bring Anglesey closer to the business and population centres of the United Kingdom are absolutely crucial for encouraging businesses to set up on the Island and further economic development.
- Campaign for an upgrade to the North Wales costal main line. Although it currently takes a not unreasonable 3 hours 20 minutes to get to London by rail, why should it take an hour just to get to Chester?
- The Council, our MP, and AM should actively lobby for Holyhead to be linked to the proposed High Speed Rail link – this would further cement Holyhead’s position as the prime gateway to Ireland, whilst simultaneously bringing Anglesey dramatically closer to the Midlands and London.
- Campaign for the North South Airlink which currently flies exclusively from Anglesey to Cardiff to also offer flights to an extended destination list, particularly major economic centres such as London, the Midlands and Ireland. This could be achieved through, for example, introducing ‘triangular’ flights.
- The re-opening of the full Amlwch Branch Line should be fast tracked, enthusiastically supported and prioritised as a vital means of regenerating Amlwch and stops along the way, including Llangefni and Llanerch-y-medd.
- With relation to Holyhead Port, it is necessary to continue building on the good work already achieved by working closely with Stena Line and others to develop the port commercially and encourage trade as a gateway to Wales and North England.
- In order to alleviate the traffic bottleneck forming at Britannia Bridge during peak times (i.e. morning / evening rush hours and ferry traffic) investigate the feasibility of introducing a third traffic lane on the bridge. As per successful schemes operated elsewhere, traffic on the third lane could be set to flow in different directions during different periods of the day (e.g. 2 lanes towards Bangor during morning rush hour and peak ferry traffic times; 2 lanes towards Anglesey during evening rush hour).
- Provide Holyhead with a semi-orbital road from Junction 2 (Tŷ Mawr, Holyhead) that links round to Holyhead Marina in order to alleviate the bottleneck at Black Bridge as the town centre is too constrained.
More than any other single issue, matters relating to planning create flash-points between Anglesey residents and the council. The slow progress in completing a Local Development Plan for Anglesey is holding back development, policy making is not transparent enough, and - whether it is true or not - many residents perceive a double standard to be at work whereby councillors and senior officers are treated preferentially. All of these matters need to be addressed urgently.
- Following the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, each unitary authority in Wales is required to prepare a Local Development Plan (LDP) which will then form the basis for all planning decisions in that area. However as Anglesey County Council has not yet completed its LDP, present policies are based on the adopted Ynys Môn Local Plan (1996) and the stopped Unitary Development Plan (2005). Both of these documents are seriously outdated in all areas: industrial, commercial, housing, affordable housing, local needs, town centres etc. Considering the current economic plight of the island, a new LDP is not only necessary - it’s a statutory requirement. Accordingly Anglesey County Council should as a matter of urgency fast-track the pre-deposit draft Local Development Plan in order that it can be adopted by January 2012.
- The lack of progress in progressing the LDP for Anglesey indicates that there could be staff problems within the Planning Department. A staff review should be conducted and new staff hired if necessary.
- More consistency and transparency needs to be applied to planning policy formation and execution.
- Planning officers need to receive better training on how to give proper advice and engage more positively with the public they serve.
- All substantive advice given by planning officers (including that given in pre-application meetings) needs to be recorded correctly.
- Councillors and senior council officers must set an example by fastidiously following planning regulations. It is not acceptable for councillors or senior officers to be seen to be either bending the rules or receiving preferential treatment. Accordingly, if planning regulations are correctly followed in advance there should be no need for councillors or senior officers to apply for retrospective planning permission.
- To avoid any seeming conflicts of interest, a Councillor on a planning committee should not vote on a planning application in his own ward. The Councillor should be allowed to speak once to either show their support or opposition to the planning application, but not take part in the debate. A similar system is already being operated by Wrexham County Borough Council.
- Any Councillor speaking in support or opposition to a planning application shall limit his comments to the relevant planning grounds on why the application should be approved, refused or deferred.
- A independent and fast-track system should be set up for dealing with complaints when the Council does not adhere to its own policies, or is in some other breach.
- Lessons need to be learned at the council from the debacle caused by their decision to grant planning permission for the siting of a methane burning biodigester close to the village of Bodffordd. Such developments need to: (a) take into account the unanimous opposition of local residents; (b) be sited in the most appropriate location where communities downwind of the development will not be subject to unpleasant smells – not, as in this case, just in the most suitable (or cheap) location for the developer.
- Review whether industrial agriculture represents ‘unspoilt’ natural landscape which currently prevents planning permission being given to build on this land.
- Consider introducing a scheme whereby normal planning restrictions are relaxed if proposed new houses are built using traditional materials in a vernacular style.
- Planning permission for modifications required by disabled soldiers returning from Afghanistan should not be unreasonably withheld or delayed.
6. Housing (including Affordable Housing)
Due to the current poor economic situation and the difficulty in obtaining mortgages from banks, getting on the first step of the housing ladder has become increasingly difficult. Anglesey County Council needs to recognise these problems and address them through a clever Affordable Housing policy.
- There are 3,000 people on Anglesey registered with Anglesey County Council as “in need of accommodation”. The council needs to increase its housing numbers to 4,000 units in the plan period of 2006-2021 to allow for Wylfa B and the demand for new homes.
- Affordable Housing policies should be based on current economic realities. It is necessary to recognise that even highly-paid younger people wanting to buy a home for the first time are likely to encounter enormous difficulty in: (a) obtaining a sufficiently large deposit, now much higher than historical values; and (b) getting a mortgage at all, owing to the economic crisis.
- In order to reach affordable housing targets Anglesey County Council should consider allowing housing densities to be increased.
- Homes are currently defined as ‘affordable’ based on a policy of marking the resale value at 75 percent below market value. This system does not recognise the current average earnings of residents or the fact that market value will gradually creep upwards. This system should be rethought so as to create an equitable formula which takes into account both market value and average wages - thus making an ‘affordable house’ affordable in perpetuity. It may also be necessary to consider attaching a strict local person only planning condition to Affordable Housing, such as in Gwynedd and the Snowdonia National Park.
- Reassert the need and rationale for publicly-owned housing which are affordable to rent.
- Establish a policy framework to support locals to buy, lease, or staircase-purchase through a Registered Social Landlord.
- Anglesey County Council should prioritise housing for those people with much needed skills and can make a greater contribution to the island.
7. Wylfa B
Since opening in 1971 the Wylfa nuclear power station has been one of the largest private-sector employers on Anglesey and has made an inestimable contribution to the local economy through providing hundreds of stable, well-paid jobs for almost 40 years. It is now approaching the end of its working life and is scheduled for decommissioning in the near future. Hopefully the huge void this will create will be filled by Wylfa B - a new generation nuclear power station operated by Horizon Nuclear Power Ltd.
- The majority of Anglesey residents support Wylfa B and our representatives to the UK Parliament and Welsh Assembly must do everything in their power power to ensure that it goes ahead. Similarly Anglesey County Council must move quickly to upgrade the necessary roads (in particular the A5025) to Wylfa to support its construction.
- Although Wylfa B must be supported because of the employment it will bring to the Island, it is also important to recognise that there are also inherent dangers attached to the siting of a nuclear power station station here. Accordingly, the Council must insist that Horizon Nuclear Power Ltd. makes a wider contribution to Anglesey above and beyond the jobs it will create.
- Examples of such a wider contribution could take various forms, such as: (a) the foundation by Horizon of a multi-million pound charitable fund – similar to the Isle of Anglesey Charitable Trust set up by Shell – which can used by Anglesey County Council to provide support to certain activities, such as economic development, education and leisure on the Island; (b) a reduction in electricity bills for residents and businesses on the island; (c) a scheme whereby local people can apply for renewable energy technology to be installed at their property, so helping the environment, setting a positive message, and reducing people’s energy bills enormously. Such a scheme would create energy-efficient affordable homes, a whole industry to support it, and revive traditional building skills.
8. Education and Leisure
Any future cuts to either Education or Leisure services should be based on a thorough understanding of the Island’s current and future needs.
- Commission a public review of all Anglesey primary and secondary education needs in the short and long term so that any rationalisation of services is taken based on an understanding of what the Island’s educational needs are to prepare for the future.
- The Welsh language should be protected and nurtured wherever possible.
- Protect local libraries as they provide the means for residents to enhance their knowledge and skills in this area of great economic deprivation. Enhance libraries with coffee franchises to attract new and existing users whilst attracting revenue. Extend and improve free internet access, essential for those with no bank accounts and poor credit histories who cannot set-up internet connections for themselves to access the outside world and its opportunities for improvement. Examine the case for libraries to opt-out of Local Authority control, like schools now can, and set themselves up as their own Library Authority.
- Commission a review of all leisure facilities on the Island, both in the public and private sector. Keep foremost in mind that, in deprived areas, health is poorer relative to wealthier areas, so shutting leisure facilities would be a highly retrograde and counterproductive step.
9. Social Services
The Council needs to prepare for future demographic changes by finding ways to provide quality services at lower costs through working in partnership with adjacent local authorities and eliminating duplication.
- Work in partnership with adjacent local authorities, the NHS, voluntary and private providers, in order to identify and eliminate costly duplication of services and encourage and support good working practice.
- Current projections show that the number of older people will increase as a proportion of the total population. It is important that policy makers take this into account when planning the amount of public services provision needed in the future. Ynys Mon has a ‘Social Health and Well Being’ plan, however not all departments appear to be aware of the aims and policies contained in this document. Provisions within this plan should be made applicable across all departments of the council.
- Establish a system of identifying high-performance managers that get the job done properly whilst also caring for overworked, stressed staff.
- Drive the “citizen directed services” agenda in Wales, inviting active involvement from the people who use social services and aspiring to provide personalised services that really do meet local needs.
10. Environment, Property and Smallholdings
Anglesey's landscape largely consists of industrial farming landscapes, however green they seem to the eye. Current planning policies wrongly see fields as 'unspoilt countryside' putting unnecessary obstacles in the way of creating a living, economically-active landscape. Many families make a living from agriculture by renting Council-owned smallholdings, but these are now under immediate threat of disposal. There is a need for a fresh, imaginative new direction on property policy, including the reintroduction of quality social housing.
- Anglesey County Council’s tenant farms are a valuable public asset and provide an opportunity for much needed younger farmers to learn the ropes and become independent with minimal capital outlay. However, many of the council’s tenant farms are currently in poor states of disrepair. Resources allowing, the council should endeavour to renovate them so that they will continue to serve the island.
- In order to generate money to renovate the majority of the council’s tenant farms, it may be necessary to value and sell off a small proportion of such to tenant farmers, or even offer part ownerships of smallholdings.
- Smallholdings are not optimised as public investments: they are let at less than their rental value, on sentiment almost, to encourage farming. Rent reviews are overdue.
- A dynamic new head of Property should be recruited to manage, optimise and develop the Council`s substantial land portfolio, including its smallholdings.
- Examine the case for increasing the area covered by the Anglesey Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The current ‘doughnut’ arrangement is less than satisfactory.
- Within the AONB, consider more intelligent and creative planning policies, rather than just added restrictions. This helps public acceptance of and benefits from the designation.
- Promote and subsidise at a local level renewable technology so that as many people as possible can be lifted out of fuel poverty whilst setting a green example to the rest of the country.
There needs to be greater transparency behind Council procurement projects and more help given to local firms to compete.
- In line with proposals by the current government, Anglesey County Council should begin publishing details of all procurement/spending over £500 on the Anglesey County Council website.
- The council must endeavour make it easier for local firms to compete for procurement contracts by providing support such as (a) seminars for local companies explaining what tenders are on offer and how to tender; (b) support for local companies to complete and submit tenders; (c) relaxation of unnecessary ‘box ticking’
- Tenders to be opened by two lawyers from North Wales companies so as to avoid price-fixing or rigging of tenders and tenderers must be at least 4 of which two are off-island.
- Relaxation of some ridiculously over-the-top ‘box ticking’ which currently prevents smaller Anglesey firms from being able to bid for IAOCC contracts
- Procurement of Social Care services must be made on an at least 65% Quality to 35% Cost basis so that we have quality services that meet needs rather than cheap services that do not.
12. Isle of Anglesey Charitable Trust (the “Shell Fund”)
The Isle of Anglesey Charitable Trust was founded in 1990 to manage a capital fund which had earlier been negotiated from Shell (UK) after it ceased to operate an oil terminal at Amlwch and the associated tank farm at Rhosgoch. The total assets of the Trust are currently valued at £15 million. The money was given by Shell to “Anglesey and its people”.
- Re-assert the public’s right to be involved in the decisions of the Shell Trust by allowing for up to three members of the public, independent of Councillors, many of whom have failed to demonstrate good representation of the people, to sit on the Trusts committees for a two years stint each. At the moment, the public have essentially no meaningful input into these discussions, many of which appear to be behind closed doors.
- Insist that the Trust files its reports on time; not doing so smacks of contempt for those whose money it is and breaches Charity Commission legal requirements.
- The Council is the sole trustee of the Shell Fund. It currently gives an annual grant of £270,000 (some 70 per cent of its annual grant money) to the Oriel Ynys Mon gallery - a Council-owned and run facility. It is time to evaluate if this is the best use of the money.
- On a related point, commence a scheme of public involvement into what use the former Shell land at Rhosgoch should be put to.
- For the Rhosgoch site, consider dividing it into 100,000 squares or other suitable figure and asking subscribers to buy a square to keep the land in the ownership of the people through a Trust not the IOACT. As things stand, the land could be handed-over to a private owner at any stage. This fails to recognise the potential for public ownership.
13. Provision of Council Services
- Working with the Post Office, other local providers and community councils establish where possible one stop shops in the provision of council services. Provide funding to develop training for non-council staff in provision of such services.
- Examine proper alternatives to services, especially tourist attractions, being provided by Councils. Ensure such alternatives include a system of staged detachment, and not a ‘here are the keys, it’s your problem now’ approach.
14. Town Improvement Grants and Empty Homes Grants
- The restriction that those benefiting from housing grants cannot sell for 5 years may require review and more imaginative and constructive solutions. It is accepted that the benefits conferred by the grant scheme should mean some form of restrictive obligation upon those taking those benefits towards the public purse.
- Grants could be de-restricted save that if the property is sold within 5 years the freeholder must pay half of the increased property value to the Assembly, the scheme funder, as they have a caution on the property.
- The net effect of this policy in North West Wales would be to massively improve the property stock in a relatively short time. This would provide a qualitative improvement to town centres.
It is clear that Anglesey's residents, subjected to a dysfunctional Council for over 15 years, are not just mere 'armchair critics'. Islanders have a plethora of constructive, intelligent and novel solutions to problems that have gone ignored or poorly addressed for long periods of time.
The era of petty, parochial politics is over on Ynys Môn. The people demand a bigger idea, a focus on the needs of the whole island and, in particular, those large numbers of families and individuals who live daily with low incomes.
The people demand a better island, a better future and, above all, a better Council.
If you like and agree with the principles contained in this People’s Manifesto, you can get involved too:
- Email this Anglesey People’s Manifesto to all the residents you know and ask them to do the same.
- Contact your local councillor and ask him or her to support the People’s Manifesto.
- Contact our MP and AM and ask them to support the People’s Manifesto.
How to contact our AM and MP
Ieuan Wyn Jones AM
2 Stryd William, Holyhead, LL65 1RN
Tŷ Elwyn Roberts, 45 Stryd y Bont, Llangefni, Ynys Mon, LL77 7PN
Albert Owen MP
020 7219 8415
House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Ty Cledwyn, 18a Thomas Street, Holyhead, LL65 1RR
You can download a PDF of the People's Manifesto for Ynys Môn by clicking here.