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Extraordinary times

Betsan Powys | 18:24 UK time, Wednesday, 20 January 2010

_216018_cheese_sandwich_300.jpgTo events in which of Wales' county councils does this refer?

The council "has been bedevilled by personality driven, petty parochial vindictive factional infighting. This is a disgraceful example of an attempt to use an officer as the meat in the middle of the sandwich of personality driven infighting; even worse those involved see nothing wrong with dragging an officer's personal and private life into these matters".

Anglesey, of course.

Who wrote such a blunt letter and sent it to every single one of Anglesey's councillors? David Bowles, the man sent in to sort out Wales' worst performing council.

"I have been appointed by the Minister and ... am therefore not bound by some of the constraints which may face other officers within local authorities".

That much is pretty clear.

How do we know about it? The final paragraph of the extraordinary letter explains:

"I did consider marking this letter Private and Confidential but decided against it on the basis that it would get leaked anyway. I regret having to write to all Members in these terms rather than just the few but that is a consequence of how the few conduct themselves".

As Mr Bowles puts it, these are "extraordinary times" for Anglesey Council. He may be holding his head in his hands but there's one thing he's not doing: backing off.

And neither are the people who put him into Anglesey to sort things out, the Welsh Assembly Government.

Here's the reaction from the Social Justice and Local Government Minister Carl Sargeant, to today's letter.

"These events underline the scale of the recovery task facing the authority and re-affirm the findings of the Wales Audit Office Report regarding the unacceptable behaviour of some members. It is this type of behaviour that undermines confidence in the Council's ability to put its past problems behind it and focus on the challenges it faces in improving services, tackling the effects of the recession and managing tight budgets.

"My predecessor appointed Mr Bowles as interim Chief Executive of the Council because of his very considerable experience in turning round local authorities in difficulty. He has made considerable progress in his current role and we will continue to work with him to support the recovery of the authority.

"In addition, the Anglesey Recovery Board will monitor and evaluate the Council's progress towards sustainable recovery and provide advice to me and the Council as necessary.

"I am not prepared to tolerate a continuation of such unacceptable behaviour from a minority of members within the Council. I will be seeking the views of the Board as to what further action they deem to be necessary to ensure that the Council's recovery is not blighted by this or any further incidents like it."

A resounding backing for Mr Bowles then, from a Minister new in post, but who sounds as if his patience with some of the councillors of Anglesey is wearing very thin already.


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