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WALES: Start talking or I call in Assembly; STAKES RAISED IN ISLAND CRISIS AS CLEAR - THE - AIR TALKS BOYCOTTED.

Byline: By ELGAN HEARN

THE future governance of Anglesey is nearing a cliff edge after leading councillors boycotted a crunch meeting to thrash out their differences with officers.

The Assembly government has warned it will take over the running of the island unless "distrust" between elected members and managers is resolved.

But a key internal Audit Committee meeting to investigate the situation and start mediation talks had to be scrapped yesterday, when seven members failed to turn up.

They included ruling Original Independents Councillors Jim Evans, Selwyn Williams, Tom Jones, Eric Jones, and Keith Evans, and Plaid Cymru coalition members Rhian Medi and John Penri Williams.

Threewho did turn upwere Chairman Cliff Everett and Councillors Peter Rogers and Hywel Eifion Jones.

An emergency meeting of the Audit Committee has now been called for next Wednesday.

If ruling coalition members continue to steer clear of discussions, committee chairman Coun Cliff Everett is threatening to complain about the lack of co-operation to the Assembly.

It follows a damning report from the Welsh Audit Office last month that highlighted an "erosion of trust" between ruling councillors and officers.

It said tensions between some executive members and corporate officers had seen a breakdown in communications at the top level.

It warned the situation risked damaging the reputation of the local authority and recommended that the Auditor General should be brought in to inspect.

Coun Everett said: "I am extremely disappointed and surprised.

"I'm now calling an urgent meeting of the committee to get to the bottom of this.

"If this fails, I shudder to think where we will end up."

The suggestion of a series of meetings to mediate between the warring factions was backed by Welsh Audit Office official, Alan Morris, at a meeting of the internal Audit Committee that took place last month.

Audit committee vice-chairman, Jim Evans, said: "I'm a representative of the Original Independents and Plaid Cymru.

"I was instructed by my group leader not to go. Why, is a confidential matter between me and Phil."

Committee member, Keith Evans (Original Independent) said he'd had a message to say the meeting had been cancelled.

"As a backbencher I want to find out what's going on, and endorsed the committee position.

"There are individuals here who just don't get on.

"I was hoping the Audit Committee would find out what the problems are."

Council leader, Phil Fowlie said: "Between the letter's publication in January and setting up these meetings we received advice from the deputy monitoring officer not to proceed with the meetings.

"I'm now waiting for that to be clarified by the Welsh Local Government Association."

But the monitoring office denied that this advice had ever been sent.

Anglesey county council managing director Derrick Jones said that his Corporate Management Teamhad been willing to attend and would be at next week's emergency meeting.

welshnews@dailypost.co.uk

CAPTION(S):

THE SEVEN NO-SHOWS Missing from the crunch meeting with officers were (clockwise from top left) Jim Evans, Selwyn Williams, Tom Jones, John Penri Williams, Rhian Medi, Keith Evans and Eric Jones
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 27, 2009
Words:510
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