In an urgent statement the Minister told Assembly Members that the report demonstrates that, despite the support of a high calibre Recovery Board and a Managing Director with a strong track record in corporate recovery yielding some progress, the basic problem remains.
Carl Sargeant said
"Too many Anglesey councillors are still more concerned with pursuing their own advantage than with meeting the needs of Anglesey’s citizens. This is not democracy – it is the politics of the playground.
"The island faces some of the most severe challenges of any council in Wales and this neglect cannot continue. I believe that councillors who have operated irresponsibly despite numerous independent inquiries, Ombudsman cases, critical audit reports and a Ministerial intervention, have been given enough chances to mend their ways.
"I have been very patient in giving the Council a chance to sort things out and have provided generous support for them to do so. My Recovery Board has worked tirelessly to help the Council help itself, as have the WLGA. Despite their best efforts, the core problems of political instability and failure to focus on what really matters have not changed. Nor will they change until councillors want to make that happen.
"I am not prepared to waste more public money on a Council that does not want to help itself. I am bringing the intervention to an end.
"I am giving the Council a much more stringent direction that comes into effect immediately. This will bring stability to the Council’s politics, ensure consistency in strategic decision-making and protect front-line services.
"Most importantly, it will ensure that the needs of the people of Anglesey come first not the needs of a small number of councillors who have chosen to put personality politics above public service."
In line with the Auditor General’s recommendation, the Minister has appointed Commissioners to run the Council. They will assume all of the functions of the Council’s executive and will be scrutinised by the Council and its committees in the same way as the executive is now.
The commissioners appointed with immediate effect are :
- Mr Alex Aldridge – former Leader of Flintshire County Council and the Welsh Local Government Association:
- Mr Byron Davies - former Chief Executive of Cardiff County Council;
In addition, Mr Mick Giannasi, Chief Constable of Gwent Police, has been invited to take up appointment with effect from his retirement from Gwent Police at the end of the month.
The Minister plans to appoint a further two commissioners and these names will be announced as soon as possible.
The Minister added
"I commend the Council’s staff for continuing to provide services in difficult circumstances. This must continue, and so the existing delegations to the Council’s officers will remain in place. I am also retaining the power to appoint the Council’s chief executive and withdrawing the Council’s power to appoint the monitoring officer and the chief finance officer.
"It is vital that the Council heeds the advice of these statutory officers and so any decisions of the Council or its committees which goes against their advice will in future be referred to the Commissioners."
The Auditor General also recommends a review of electoral boundaries on the island and that the Minister considers directing the Council to develop and implement a strategy that promotes democratic renewal.
Carl Sargeant responded:
"I intend to ask the Boundary Commission and the Electoral Commission to conduct a review of the electoral boundaries and will be considering further actions that can be taken to promote democratic renewal on the Island. I will also be writing immediately to the Independent Remuneration Panel to ask them to review the new arrangements in Anglesey and to set new levels of allowances for councillors which reflect their diminished responsibilities."
The Minister concluded:
"I am taking action today with a profound sense of sadness. I prefer to trust local authorities and their members to discharge their public responsibilities effectively. But I know that where they do not, I have no alternative but to act.
"The actions and attitudes of too many of Anglesey’s councillors have left me with no alternative. They have brought this further intervention on themselves, and they thoroughly deserve it.
"The direction will continue at least until the next local elections and will help restore effective governance, it will ensure better strategic leadership, and it will protect the vital services that citizens of Anglesey have every right to expect."