Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Do Independent Councils work?

John Davies, leader of Pembrokeshire Council, has accused Ministers of picking on Independently run Councils. He accused them of acting politically in their reaction to the problems in Pembrokeshire over education and children’s services.  This following on the back of Blaenau Gwent becoming the first in Wales to go into special measures after a report found "systemic" management failures.
Anglesey Council has been put under the control of Commissioners, and Powys Council was not without its problems when for many years Labour and Welsh Liberal Democrats whilst being party members actually sat as Independents on the council.
It is debateable whether or not Ministers at the Welsh Government are guilty of over flexing of their muscles on a number of issues relating to local authorities.  Blogging on the issue of local; government reorganisation Peter Black said they are “Their approach has more in common with bullying than leadership.”  But are they really focusing any more attention on Independently run Councils than on any others?  Or is it a fact that these Councils are not performing as effectively as they should be.
We’ve all heard the moans and groans from people – usually those who like to snipe from the side-lines – about how all Councillors should be there for the good of the people (agreed) and there shouldn’t be any party politics only sainted individuals there to give their all for their communities!  Preferably with no exchange of money taking place to sully the hands of these blessed individuals.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are good Independent Councillors who are there for all the right reasons and who do a good job, but there are also good Councillors of all Parties who want to do their best for their communities.  Being part of a political Party does not preclude that.
Party politics gives some cohesion to the system.  Even in a party as diverse as ours!   There is a central theme, a joint purpose – even if we sometimes disagree on exactly how to achieve our goals.  We might not like the politics of those in other Parties but if nothing else it limits the number of battle fronts we have to fight on. 
Independent Councillors may be very good as ward Councillors, but in my humble opinion it seems there is rarely the political acumen (even with a small ‘p’) that allows them to engineer change or scrutinize effectively.
It surely cannot be a coincidence that the major problems in Councils throughout Wales have come about in those Councils that are largely Independently run.  We may not like what Labour do in RCT but at least our education system whilst not perfect is not teetering on the brink of collapse.

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