Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Local Government and Government Business
In February 2013, Assembly Members were updated on the further progress Anglesey County Council was making under the stewardship of Commissioners.
You will all be well aware of the serious problems which beset Anglesey County Council which led to my predecessor Carl Sargeant AM, taking the unprecedented decision to remove all the Council’s powers and appoint a team of five Commissioners to run the Council on his behalf. Under the stewardship of Commissioners, the Council has made progress.
In October 2012, my predecessor issued the Council with a less stringent direction meaning Commissioners reduced their presence in the Council and Councillors resumed day to day control. Since that time the Council continued to perform well.
In March, the Council approved a budget for 2013-14 and approached the serious challenges this presented at least as maturely as any other Local Authority. They became the first Local Authority in North Wales and only the second overall, to achieve the Welsh Housing Quality Standard. The Council recently secured highly commended for the Management Consulting Association’s Public Sector Change Management Project of the year. These are significant achievements for a Council which was so damaged only four years ago.
Following boundary changes resulting in the reduction of Councillors from 40 to 30, my predecessor agreed to delay the Council’s election for a year.
The election took place on 2 May 2013. Each seat was well-contested, with 106 candidates standing for 30 seats. The 50.5% turnout was higher than any other election which took place in the UK the same day.
The election results left no party or group with an overall majority, leading to negotiations between the various groups. The negotiations have proceeded well and maturely and I am confident they will yield the stable administration the Council needs. The first step is for the Council to elect a Leader at its Annual General Meeting this afternoon.
Who runs the Council is not a matter for me. What is vital, however, is that a stable and effective administration follows.
Today the Council will have a new Leader marking a fresh start. It is now the job of the new cohort of Councillors to build on the progress achieved by their predecessors under the Commissioners’ stewardship. This has given the Council an opportunity to become an exemplar within the Local Government family.
The Council is showing green shoots of recovery and we hope they will be able to convert this promise and show they are capable of delivering a sustainable recovery and continuing improvement. Given the level of progress the Council made and continues to make, I am satisfied the Council is now able to manage its own affairs. The Commissioners and the Auditor General for Wales share this view.
My Ministerial intervention will, therefore, formally end when the current direction expires on 31 May.
To ensure sustained progress beyond the end of May, my officials are currently in discussions with the Council, Commissioners and the Welsh Local Government Association to determine the level of support which should be given. I will pay very close attention on the Council’s progress over the coming months. In addition, the Education Recovery Board established by the Minister for Education & Skills will continue its work, supporting the Council to address the serious short-comings that exist in Anglesey’s education services.
However, this should not detract from the Council’s overall progress. Recovering from a situation where it was more broken than any Local Authority in the United Kingdom has ever been, in just over two years, is a fantastic achievement. It is a testament to all those involved in the turnaround: Council Officers and Members, Commissioners and, of course, my predecessor, Carl Sargeant. It also demonstrates our ability to solve even the most difficult problems of public service delivery if we work together towards a common goal. It is a lesson we can and must apply elsewhere.