Monday, 3 December 2012

The Council, the rugby club and the stadium - back door subsidies?

An interesting set of figures for payments to Scarlets Regional Ltd were released under FoI the other day. Over the past couple of years the council has continued to subsidise the club through conference fees, rent, various grants, expenses, hospitality etc to the tune of £165,000, equating to over £1000 per week.
The full response, and the figures, with either a download option or html version can be seen here.

The Parc Y Scarlets stadium, as you will know if you followed this blog, was one of those County Hall 'visions' which was going ahead back in 2006, regardless of the cost to the taxpayer, or even the concerns from the auditors. £23m later we're still paying. If you take into account the value of the land the figure is around £40m. The club's financial difficulties were kindly eased in 2007 by the council slashing the interest payments on the £2.4m loan resulting in a loss to the taxpayer of £216,000 over three years. Also, the club's contributions to the maintenance fund for the stadium were 'waived'. Earlier this year part of the council owned land, leased to the Scarlets, was sold to Marston's pubs, any profit sharing promises unlikely to go back into the pockets of the taxpayer.

It looks like the Council's Chief Executive was being a little optimistic back in 2007 when he said that “The council will have no ongoing liability for the running of the club in the stadium.”.
One could almost imagine that the council are dreaming up ways to subsidise the club rather than consider cheaper and more convenient venues. And of course nothing helps 'business' along more than watching the match from the comfort of the council's hospitality box, washed down with a champagne lunch.
What will be next? Complimentary tickets to the new Eastgate Odeon complete with extra large popcorn and a bottle of pop?
With the public toilets being closed, elderly care under threat, the future of council owned leisure centres uncertain etc, and all the much publicised dire savings needing to be made, why are the council paying £1000 per week to the Scarlets?
Why, for example is any money at all coming out of the 'small schools improvement grant' for anything other than improving schools?

The use of funds in this way to private companies such as Scarlets Regional, Henry Davidson Ltd or even the evangelical bowling alley raises serious questions whether the council is in breach of EU State Aid rules, designed to prevent public bodies heavily subsidising private companies. Those questions remain unanswered.

We all wish the club success on the field, and that goes for all other sporting endeavours in the county too and we also know that criticism of Council, particularly when it concerns the various vanity/pet projects, never goes down very well with County Hall. Back in May of this year, the club's auditors once again rang alarm bells about the club's financial future. Carmarthenshire residents raised legitimate concerns again about the council's financial involvement - it is our right, after all to scrutinise council spending (isn't it?), the Chief Executive reacted by accusing them of being;
 "part of the on-going nonsense peddled by a small minority of people....We are concerned but not surprised about the language used by those who would wish the club and the council harm"

How many times have we heard remarks like this? I've lost count. The most recent version was heard by thousands listening to the Jason Mohammed programme a couple of weeks ago


Anonymous said...

I would love this to get wider publicity and greater scrutiny. Just last week Kevin Madge despaired where money in the council pot will come from post 2015, it's obvious by scaling back commitments to the Scarlets would help tremendously.

Alarm bells rang in my mind, when my Llanelli cousin said it was cheaper to go to the Liberty stadium and support Swansea than go to the Scarlets and their new venue.

caebrwyn said...

The 'Corporate manslaughter event' must have been a barrel of laughs. I wonder whether it had a themed buffet? or if the public gallery cropped up? It came out of the Customer Services budget...I wonder what they've got planned.....!

Anonymous said...

how do councilors allow this to carry on , the state of the rest of the council services