Put Caerphilly Council Into Special Measures, Plaid Cymru Leader Urges Welsh Government

29/07/2019

Plaid Cymru has called on the Welsh Government to put Caerphilly County Borough Council into “Special Measures” because of growing concerns about the way the authority is run.

Councillor Colin Mann, leader of the Plaid Cymru group, has written to Welsh Local Government Minister Julie James asking her to send in officials to take over control of the authority to restore public confidence.

In a letter to the Minister, Councillor Mann says that  Caerphilly cannot wait until the next elections in 2022 because of the seriousness of the situation because of poor management and decision-making.

He highlights:

·         The rising cost of the Senior Officerss’ Pay Scandal With Millions of Pounds of Public Money Wasted

·         Proposed closure of Pontllanfraith Leisure Centre

·         Failure to keep spending on Pwllypant Roundabout Scheme Under Control

·         Axing frontline services, including closing public toilets

Councillor Colin Mann said: “Public confidence in the authority is shot to pieces and the people of Caerphilly county can’t wait until 2022  to get rid of this appalling administration, which  just ignores the views of residents, such as on the Pontllanfraith Leisure Centre.

“The view of the way the authority is being run is shared by Labour Party members in Islwyn who have complained to Labour Wales office that the council’s cabinet has “deliberately misled us, ignored their  views”.

 In the letter to the Minister, Councillor Colin Mann said: “I’m writing to ask you to put the authority in special measures, as has happened in the NHS in Wales, and take control of the authority for a period of time to restore public confidence in local government in Caerphilly.”

FULL LETTER TO THE MINISTER

Dear Minister,

I’m writing to you because of growing concerns across the political divide and among residents generally about the way Caerphilly County Borough Council is being run by the current Labour administration.

As you will be aware the authority has been embroiled in a senior officers’ pay scandal for more than six years. This has led to chief officers being paid thousands of  pounds a week to stay at home. The chief executive remains at home on special leave and was paid more than £164,000 in salary and pension contributions in the financial year, 2017-18. That has continued.

This has already cost more than £4m in salaries, legal and audit costs and is continuing to rise. In addition, if you take into account the salary increases paid to 20 senior officers over the same period of six years the cost of this debacle rises to more than £6m. This has brought Caerphilly County Borough Council into disrepute both locally and across the United Kingdom.  Residents are furious about the waste of public money in already difficult times and there appears to be no immediate resolution in sight.

This is far from the only example of poor management and decision-making by the current administration.

Recently, the council announced the closure of Pontllanfraith Leisure Centre against the overwhelming wishes of the community, ignoring appeals from the public. This led to residents successfully challenging the decision through a Judicial Review, although the authority’s leader is still, it appears, determined to shut this beloved local facility. Unfortunately, the Cabinet dismissed out of hand offering the leisure centre to the community to run as many other local authorities have done with public facilities.

The view of the way the authority is being run is shared by Labour Party members in Islwyn who have complained to Welsh Labour that the council’s cabinet has “deliberately misled us, ignored the views of the CLP, and whose action have brought the constituency party into disrepute”.

In fact, such is the feeling that the current MP, Chris Evans and former MPs Don Touhig and Neil Kinnock joined a march protesting against the closure of the leisure centre. I enclose for information a link to a report in the South Wales Argus: https://www.southwalesargus.co.uk/news/17755347.labour-row-gwent-islwyn-constituency-branch-complains-welsh-party-caerphilly-council-39-s-cabinet/

Mr Evans has also complained after Caerphilly County Borough Council’s leader and interim chief executive “abruptly” left a meeting regarding issues in the borough. The link to this from the Caerphilly Observer  is https://caerphilly.observer/news/978499/council-leader-and-interim-chief-executive-abruptly-leave-meeting-with-islwyn-mp/

In addition, the Cabinet ordered the closure of public toilets against the wishes of the public and the council failed to keep tight enough controls on a major road improvement scheme at the Pwllypant A468/A469 roundabout improvement. Spending rose by 50 per cent from the original estimate of £5,341,965 to £8,065,000.

These examples show that the public and politicians of all parties have lost confidence in the current administration and action is needed quickly to restore that confidence.

Caerphilly county borough cannot wait until the next elections in 2022 for a possible change in administration. As a result of the serious situation, I’m writing to ask you to put the authority in special measures, as has happened in the NHS in Wales, and take control of the authority for a period of time to restore public confidence in local government in Caerphilly.

I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Yours faithfully,

Councillor Colin Mann,

Leader, Plaid Cymru Group,

Caerphilly County Borough Council