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Sorting out council's like rearranging deck chairs on Titanic.

Byline: TOM BODDEN ; OWEN HUGHES

LOCAL government minister Carl Sargeant yesterday warned warring factions on Anglesey council he is ready to intervene to protect the island's services.

He was backed by the Council's interim manager David Bowles who likened his task to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

The minister commissioned an urgent re-inspection of the authority by the Auditor General forWales Huw Vaughan Thomas, 18 months after a damning assessment of its political leadership.

Mr Sargeant said in a statement to AMs: "The council should be in no doubt about the gravity of the situation, a situation which it has largely brought on itself."

The Assembly Government installed a Recovery Board and interim managing director after serious failures were uncovered by the auditor general in July 2009, which included poor behaviour by members, weak relationships between members and officers and inadequate strategic planning.

But Mr Sargeant concluded the most serious problems had not gone away and the current intervention does not stand a reasonable prospect of success.

"If so then I will have to consider a more stringent form of intervention, to hasten recovery and to protect the island and its citizens.

"I have already heard the views of my Recovery Board on this.

"They acknowledge the progress made but see little prospect of a sustainable recovery.

"The status quo cannot continue as the lack of stability and good corporate governance strongly suggest an inability to take cogent strategic decisions, and could start to affect routine service delivery.

"What any further form of action or intervention should be is not clear to me at present."

The minister said the conduct of many councillors 'suggests that their primary aim is to manoeuvre for personal and group advantage rather than to deliver for the island'.

"Making and breaking political deals remains a pervasive feature of the council's political culture, leading to turmoil."

Last June, the leader left his group, which he believed was undermining him and the recovery, and formed a new alliance which failed to attract majority support. Since Christmas, there have been Carl Sargeant said it was hard several attempts to overthrow to keep track shifting rivalries that alliance and replace it with one of a number of configurations, all of which would involve former allies being in opposition to each other, and put former opponents in power together.

"Since we intervened, two new groups have been set up and an old one has been dissolved. Many executive portfolios have been held by several different members over the past 18 months. And it is sometimes hard to keep track of allegiances and rivalries."

He argued all councillors needed to focus on delivering for the island..

"But this jockeying for advantage undermines recovery.

"What is profoundly disappointing for me is that now many of those apparently involved in recent developments gave personal assurances to my Recovery Board that they would not destabilise the current administration in the interests of securing recovery.

"Those assurances have proved to be hollow.

"And it gives me no confidence that the council will be able to address the severe financial and delivery challenges that all local authorities face coherently."

The council's staff continued to work hard in the trying circumstances to deliver for the island, and it is to their great credit that Anglesey's services remain mostly good and sometimes excellent.

"But that can only work on a day-to-day basis: even the best officers need sound and consistent political leadership to address strategic delivery issues like school rationalisation and social care reform. "It is only a matter of time before this starts to affect front-line services and the necessary improvements to them.

"That leads me to believe the current intervention does not stand a reasonable prospect of success if such conduct is allowed to continue."

"I will consider the recommendations from the Auditor General very carefully in deciding what further action to take.

"However, I will say that if the council spurns opportunities to resolve its problems, and the extensive support we, the Recovery Board and the WLGA have provided, it will only have itself to blame."

welshnews@dailypost.co.uk FROM: Anglesey's interim managing director David Bowles I agree entirely with the minister's assessment of the county council's political predicament. This is fundamentally an issue about the personal values, conduct and behaviours of individual members entrusted with pounds 150m of public money.Unfortunately in spite of very extensive development, support and very blunt advice the majority continue to let the people of Anglesey down.

The minister has himself pointed to hollow assurances given by some members to the Recovery Board. Unfortunately, this has been my experience of how some councillors operate in Anglesey with no less than five reneging on their own signatures on written undertakings. I was appalled at the latest so called new alliances in order to allegedly take this Authority 'forward'.

Anger... Bowles This formation has completely ignored advice I have given and goes against the principles of good governance, as demanded by the minister. It is no more than a desperate attempt to try to prevent something more dramatic happening rather than face up to and solve the council's long standing political problems. Shifting the deck chairs on the Titanic is no solution.How can inward investors, other councils or partners have any confidence in dealing with a council dominated by a number of unprincipled politicians. There are some members here who have had the moral courage to make a difference. One hopes there is a silent majority who at some time will stand up to be counted and join them but I fear time has run out. The population of Anglesey are entitled to expect better of their representatives, who cost the taxpayer in excess of pounds 800,000 a year. Staff here genuinely feel they are the ones who will pay the price for political failure by loss of jobs as a result of a possible merger with Gwynedd and that is not acceptable. It is the councillors who should seriously consider their positions.

In spite of everything they endure Anglesey's staff continue to provide good services. Members have lost the trust of our staff; they clearly have a long waytogotoregain the confidence of the minister.

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Anger... Bowles attract support. been Carl Sargeant said it was hard to keep track of shifting rivalries
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 18, 2011
Words:1058
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