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Damning Anglesey assessment published

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The full extent of the chaos at crisis-hit Isle of Anglesey CC has been laid bare by a damning report by the former managing director.

The confidential report, drafted by former managing director David Bowles, revealed harassment of officers by councillors and a workforce with no confidence in members.

The document details a “worrying and disturbing” deterioration in relations after ministerial intervention in the authority persuaded staff to make their feelings known and warned services were at risk as officers’ time was taken up with “crude political infighting and tit-for-tat grievances”.

Mr Bowles served as interim managing director until last month after being imposed on the council following a critical audit report in 2009. He penned the scathing review of the council’s progress shortly before announcing his departure and recommended “a very substantial deepening” of ministerial intervention in the authority until May 2012.

The damning indictment led local government minister Carl Sargeant to transfer executive powers from councillors to commissioners in March.

Written in January, but published this week following a Freedom of Information request, the report explained that historic problems between councillors and senior officers had come to “encompass the council’s entire workforce” during 18 months of intervention.

Although some progress had been made, Mr Bowles said he had “absolutely no confidence whatsoever” that it would be maintained once the ministerial intervention ended because councillors had openly admitted they would seek to undermine the authority of the managing director.

“The disturbing issue is that this acknowledgement underscores the point that recovery in this area is not yet sustainable,” he said.

The protection offered by the ministerial intervention had encouraged staff to voice their concerns, Mr Bowles said. This had culminated in a staff meeting where officers “made very open calls for a substantial reduction in both the number of elected members and their allowances. Such propositions from the floor of the meeting were met with applause.”

Officers’ lack of confidence in members stemmed from being “attacked and undermined merely for doing their job properly and professionally” by some councillors, he said, while others, including an unnamed group leader, failed to take a stand against such behaviour.

“Another senior member has taken action which has been openly perceived as encouraging the harassment of officers,” Mr Bowles wrote.

The former interim managing director said officers had responded well to the minister’s decision to intervene and worked hard to help the council to progress but some members had failed to change and their behaviour was taking up officers’ time and putting services at risk.

As way of examples, Mr Bowles explained that public consultation on budget cuts had “hijacked” by concerns about members’ conduct and said negotiations about changes to staff terms and conditions were made “significantly more difficult given the lack of respect that staff have for members” and their own demands for members’ allowances to be cut.

There was also concern that the proposal for the Wylfa B power station could be put at risk. “A political leadership which is not even respected upon the island and is unstable and for-ever changing is exceptionally risky and will fundamentally undermine the long-term economic development of the island,” Mr Bowles said.  

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