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Anglesey to introduce secret leadership ballot

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A troubled Welsh council is set to elect its leader in a secret ballot in a bid to end a troubled period of political instability.

Leadership hopefuls will have to set out their “vision” for the island and must produce an annual report on their progress, according to a number of changes proposed to the constitution of Isle of Anglesey CC.

It is hoped the introduction of a secret ballot will help the council move away from a system based on personal allegiance, according to a report by a working group of three councillors and the commissioners sent in by ministers to oversee the running of the island council following a damning audit report.

A secret ballot will mean members vote on “candidate’s vision and values, and should not feel unduly beholden to personal or other allegiances”, the report states.

Councillors seeking to be leader will have to set out a vision, the report said, because “the leader is currently elected with little if any formal regard to what s/he proposes to deliver”. Once elected, leaders will also have to submit an annual progress report to councillors.

Leaders will be re-elected every four years, after an election, because the current biennial election “is insufficient to deliver any kind of programme [because] no leader can ever be completely sure of re-election”.

The proposals also seek to delete a number of prescriptive sections detailing how political groups should manage themselves, and how committee places and outside appointments should be distributed.

The latter provisions “all but invite dissent and haggling between groups rather than assuming a mature approach to reaching agreement”, the report states. In future group leaders and the head of democratic services would simply be required to meet and resolve the matters, with regard to poltical balance and unaffiliated members.

Although Wales’ local government minister, Carl Sargeant, has given the commissioners the power to change the consultation, councillors are set to discuss the proposals next week. “It is essential for the council to approve our proposed changes before the commissioners formally decide whether to adopt them,” according to the report.

Commissioner Alex Aldridge, chairman of the constitution working group, said the new arrangements would “ensure greater accountability to the people of Anglesey, stability through clear and stable leadership, fairness in the way it treats the views of all members and a maturity which promotes good sense and judgement amongst members and officers”.

Other recommendations:

  • minutes of meetings should be a record of decision, “not a verbatim transcript”
  • portfolio holders should meet relevant directors and heads of service at least monthly
  • chairs and deputy chairs should receive full training on chairing skills
  • committees should maintain a full record of attendance
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