Cardiff can't afford to wait says Jenny Willott MP

September 5, 2014 10:44 AM

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Cardiff's Lib Dems say a damning Welsh Audit Office report into the city's performance reveals Labour's failure of leadership since it took over running the Council in 2012.

The report's scathing attack on 'fragmented leadership and management" has heaped pressure on Cllr Phil Bale, leader of the council.

"This report is painfully bad," said Cllr Judith Woodman, leader of the Lib Dem group on Cardiff Council. "It makes a number of recommendations but we have little confidence that Phil Bale has the experience or skills to implement those changes in the required timeframe.

"You have to ask questions of his ability to be running the city.

"That said, it's not just his failure but a failure of his party. Heather Joyce stood down as leader days before the Audit Office came in. She must have known how bad things were going to be and decided to dodge the bullet."

There are now fears that, unless swift improvement is made, the Welsh Government could be forced to appoint Commissioners to run the Council, as they did in Anglesey in 2011.

"Bale is leading a party that is in utter disarray," said Woodman. "In the two years Labour have been running the Council, there have been two leadership challenges, four Councillors have resigned, at huge cost to the city in terms of bye-elections, countless Cabinet reshuffles, five cabinet members with responsibility for Children's Services and claims from within the group of systemic sexism.

"If they can't even run themselves, how can you expect them to run a capital city?

"If the Commissioners are called in, the damage to the Council's reputation is inconceivable."

The report points to 'political instability' as a key cause of the Council's failure to deliver its program of change.

This is in marked contrast to the findings of the WAO in 2011, when the Liberal Democrats were running the city. "Clear and firm leadership and sound governance," the WAO said in 2011, "supported by effective financial management is underpinning delivery of the Council's strategic intentions."

The current report comes a few months after the administration launched a listening exercise that has already run into widespread ridicule.

"Phil Bale's so-called Cardiff Debate probably sounded a good idea at the time," said Jenny Willott, Lib Dem MP for Cardiff Central, "but it's set to last for three years. The city simply hasn't got that long.

"Councils across the UK are using innovative ways of coping with a changed environment for local government.

"They're getting on with implementing change, not sitting around chatting about it."

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