Monday, November 30, 2009

An Unsustainable Council Structure in Powys.

I like to keep my readers informed of developments at Powys County Council - and today there was a big one. The Powys Independent Alliance has decided to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. This new coalition has decided to call itself the Powys Administration. I do not intend to use this name myself, because it does not accurately describe what it is. I shall call it the Powys Independents/Liberal Democrat Coalition. Seems to me that the words Liberal Democrat have been deleted from the name in an effort to disguise what it is - and perhaps avoid losing those councillors who would rather be in bed with a rattlesnake than in bed with the Liberal Democrats.

Neither is it an 'administration'. It cannot be such while the Council's Executive Management Board is made up of five groups, including the 'Shires' Independents, Conservatives and Labour. I really cannot see any sense or logic in this new position. This new Coalition has a majority in the Council Chamber, and on the Executive Management Board. They have the numbers to do what they want. But what they don't want is responsibility for the decisions that they take. They want responsibility to be shared with three other groups who have no actual power to do anything. This looks very odd indeed.

Cannot help but wonder if this was at the insistence of the Liberal Democrats, who do not want to take responsibility for unpopular decisions. Interesting that the information given to Carl Yapp at the BBC refers to the possibility of changing the structure of the Council to a Cabinet system - at some future date. Several Councillors have telephoned me tonight to tell me that it will be in the summer - conveniently after the General Election!! If I were a member of the Powys Independents I would resign immediately, and join another group, or go genuinely 'independent'. No matter how you cut it, the reality is that any councillor who stays in this new group is in coalition with the Liberal Democrats. Hmmmm. Lets wait and see what happens. So happens that personally, I agree with a change to a Cabinet system - but the situation created today is bizarre and probably unsustainable.


G ap M said...

It is noticeable that 19 out of the 22 Local Authorities operate a Cabinet style of administration where there is a political and proper split between the “executive” (decision-making) and scrutiny (to hold to account and challenge decisions taken). The lack of real politics in Powys does not provide the governance to
• Give strong civic leadership
• Deliver modern services, and
• Shape the places where people live and work

As far as I can see the current Chairman of the Powys Board has been in that role since 1996. He hasn’t been able to “lead” the Council in the normal way and the in-fighting between the groupings of councillors (please do not call them political groups) has meant that there is no discernible vision for Powys and no shared agenda. The Assembly Government advocated the strengthening of local decision-making and the 19 cabinets elsewhere have taken advantage of this. Cllr Michael Jones bemoans the poor financial settlement for Powys, below inflation for the third consecutive year. But in reality the Board system operating here is unable to wield any power and Powys is seen by Cardiff as ineffectual because it has failed to demonstrate that it is at the centre of local (and supported) decision-making and that it is providing effective local leadership. Powys is seen as an isolated backwater unable to modernise and embrace the concept of shared service delivery. It has failed to set a vision for the area based on the Community Planning process that has support from the public, other public , voluntary and community groups and the private sector. Powys is unable to arrange for the delivery of services at the right level to meet local needs. We have an authority in chaos, lurching from one year's crisis to the next. It is time for change but not until we get real political groupings. But like your good self during your time as Chairman of Montgomeryshire, councillors just cannot append the Tory or Labour or Plaid label to their nomination papers and the public is left with the confusing Powys pudding of the so called Independents. Hey, wake up! This is the County Council not the Community Council of Powys!

Glyn Davies said...

G ap M - In principle I agree with you about the way the Council should be run, though not with all the negative comments about past performance. Must admit that the Conservative Group have not agreed with me on this.

Where I see this Powys Independents/Liberal Democrats Coalition as daft is that many of the Independents are Conservatives. All it will be is a collection of individuals, many with no allegiance to the Coalition, which will not have any philosophicla base at all. The only genuine coalition that could give political leadership would be Conservative/Independent or a Coalition of ther Independent groups.

Where I do disagree is about the appendinding of a political label to a candidate. I think the Conservatives showed at the last Council election that fighting under the Conservative banner was worth around 100 votes (in Montgomeryshire anyway). I fully expect there to be many more Conservative candidates at the next election.