Merthyr Tydfil council civic centre Image copyright Google
Image caption The report found a “debilitating lack of capacity and resilience” at Merthyr Tydfil council

Political dramas on Facebook are consuming enormous energy at a local authority at the expense of other matters, an independent review has found.

Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council has a “debilitating lack of capacity”, it warns.

Local government minister Julie James has appointed external advisers to help.

The BBC has asked Merthyr Tydfil council to comment.

Last year the Welsh Government sent in former Swindon council chief executive John Gilbert to advise the authority after council leader Kevin O’Neill asked for help.

Ms James then appointed former Welsh Local Government Association chief executive Steve Thomas to chair an independent “improvement and assurance board”.

That board’s review of the council has now been completed.

It found a “debilitating lack of capacity and resilience” throughout the council, with the organisation functioning “by keeping its nostrils above the waterline”.

It said there was an “urgent need” to address “poor attainment levels” in schools, and a “complete breakdown of trust” between the council and the trust which runs some leisure services.

Image caption Council leader Kevin O’Neill asked for help for the authority last year

Other problems included “significant concerns” about the ability of the council to deal with “practical ongoing issues”.

“For example, the council’s monitoring officer is also its sole qualified childcare lawyer providing advice, running cases and advocacy on behalf of social services,” the report said.

“She also is responsible for HR, legal and a range of other services.”

The report said the council was “precariously reliant” on goodwill.

‘Enormous organisational energy’

Merthyr Tydfil’s “political culture” needs to be monitored as political “hotspots” and “dramas” are played out on Facebook, the report said.

“This can consume enormous organisational energy often at the expense of more important matters” and “senior officers are all too often being asked to play the role of ‘referees’ as opposed to professional advisors”, it said.

The council’s current financial plan shows projected budget deficits totalling £15m over the next three financial years.

The Welsh Government is appointing extra advisers to help with education, social services, corporate governance and leader, cabinet and member development.

Ms James said there needed to be “widespread commitment from all members and officers to achieve a sustainable future for the council and to deliver good quality services to the people of Merthyr Tydfil”.

“I will be looking for a view on the whole council’s progress at the end of May,” she said.


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