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Chief blasts councillors on crisis island

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Isle of Anglesey CC faces “more stringent” government intervention after an astonishing attack on councillors by its interim chief executive.

David Bowles said councillors had “lost the trust of our staff; they clearly have a long way to go to regain the confidence of the minister”.

Social justice and local government minister Carl Sargeant has told the Wales Audit Office to “conduct an urgent re-inspection of the authority to help [him] consider a new and more stringent form of intervention”.

It is unclear whether Mr Sargeant has any option short of directly taking over the council, though he has sought powers to forcibly merge councils.

The Welsh Assembly Government imposed a recovery board on the council after a damning audit report in 2009.

Last month, the WAO reported that it had found limited progress but criticised Anglesey’s business planning and political instability.

The roots of Anglesey’s latest crisis lie in political manoeuvring after leader Clive McGregor (Voice of Anglesey) announced he would step down in May.

A coalition of Labour, Plaid Cymru, the Original Independents and the Menai Group said it would take over. Elections are due in May 2012.

Mr Bowles said he was “appalled” by the formation of the four-party coalition, a step which he said “completely ignored advice that 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.”

Mr Bowles questioned whether investors, partners and other councils could have any confidence in dealing with Anglesey while it remained “dominated by a number of unprincipled politicians who have a reputation for hollow promises”. 

He said the council’s problems were “fundamentally an issue about the personal values, conduct and behaviours of individual members entrusted with £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.”

He added that five councillors had “reneged on their own signatures on written undertakings and agreement”.

Mr Bowles, who is paid £1,160 a day, was imposed as interim chief in 2009 by the then minister Brian Gibbons. He agreed last autumn to stay on for a further year.

 

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