Saturday, 22 September 2012

Another day....and another complaint....

The ongoing row over the Sainsbury's call-in continues. A local businessman and opponent of the proposed Llandeilo store has made a strongly worded official complaint to the Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire Council, the text of which you can read below. Whilst I am distancing myself over the political bunfight, the complainant brings up wider issues, including the misuse of the council press office and website which, amongst the rest of the sorry mess, urgently need addressing.

Here's the complaint;

Dear Chief Executive, 
County Council Web site and Sainsbury’s 
I wish to make a formal complaint about the free use of the Carmarthenshire County Council Website, and the failure of the Council, and it’s officers to control and maintain the content of Press releases attributed to the Council, and its officers. 
I wish to make a formal complaint that the content of the press release published by the Council on the Council website on the 14 th September was both factually incorrect, and more importantly gave the Director of Sainsbury’s a public platform which could have been construed as being endorsed by the County Council and it’s officers. 
My complaint in detail: 
1.       The Press release is factually incorrect. The request for the Planning application for Llandeilo was asked to be called in by existing traders, existing store operators, Industrialist like myself, and a significant number of the Public who are genuinely concerned about Traffic, and the impact of further traffic on pollution. The request was for Llandeilo, and Llandeilo alone. 
2.       The Call for the matter to be called in was not only made by Rhodri Glyn Thomas, and Jonathan Edwards, but also by the Welsh Liberal Democrats with William Powell joining his fellow AM, Rhodri Glyn Thomas in their outright condemnation of the scale of the project, and its impact on local businesses. 
3.       No objection has been raised to the extent of the Cross Hands proposal, its potential for Job creation, and the redevelopment of a former Brown Field site. That is to be welcomed, on a site eminently more suitable for development. 
4.       Councillor Madge, therefore not only got his facts wrong, but also used a Council press portal to promote a political attack on Plaid Cymru that was totally wrong in detail, and was used to further his own political party’s position. 
5.       Councillor Madge has also misrepresented a series of other facts. He states that Sainsbury will work with local suppliers to increase the amount of local produce in store. Can he actually produce facts to support that claim? For the avoidance of doubt over 10,000 stock lines are held in the average Sainsbury Store, 100 at any one time come from Wales as a whole, and less that 10 from Carmarthenshire. The extent of what he says is not quantified, and there should not be given credence. 
6.       The Welsh Assembly Government called in the application on technical retail grounds, and not political whims of a Councillor. In essence Welsh Assembly Government reviewed the Planning process and were critical of the fact  that Mr Madge’s Councils planning department had not given sufficient consideration to the Retail Impact Study, and the impact of two superstores on the local economy and that of Llandeilo in particular. Mr Madge was factually incorrect, and misleading in what he said on jobs. Sainsbury uses its own Contractors and uses very little local labour. Mr Madge was wrong again. 
7.       What has not been challenged which will be now by Welsh Government inspectors is the impact of the potential stores on existing businesses, the significant loss of existing jobs and the closure of small businesses, and the wider impact on the  East Carmarthenshire economy. 
8.       The conduct of the Councillors at the planning meeting on the 29th March was laughable. 10 of the 19 had fallen asleep within 10minutes of Graham Noakes [planning officer] starting; Councillors kept leaving the chamber so much so, that the County solicitor had to ask members to remain within the Chamber. Added to which one Councillor admitted openly that Sainsbury had contacted all the Councillors the evening before and spoken to them. By anyone’s standards that is wholly wrong, and the planning department at that time should have stopped hearings; reviewed what had happened and then reported to the Council Executive. That kind of action can only be perceived as being devious and dishonest, and cause unnecessary conspiracy theories as to what has really happened. 
9.       Job Creation is important, and Mr Madge makes out that this decision to call-in will lead to a loss of Jobs in the Communities of Cross Hands and Llandeilo. This is clearly utter nonsense and scaremongering. It is likely that Cross Hands will proceed, and whether Llandeilo does or not is in the hands of the Inspectors. Mr Madge should, and had he  been intellectually flexible on this matter, not have given Sainsbury a platform to voice their one sided position, and offered the same opportunity to people with other political positions. For wider circulation the Council should be working with local Councillors in Llandeilo, and other east Carmarthenshire communities to have a plan B for Job creation. Thankfully myself and a group of lcal business people have taken this on, and with our local Councillor are working on plans that could add a further 25 jobs to the workplace in 2013. This has received widespread support from Plaid, Lib Dems and others, but nothing from Labour. 
1.       Mr Madge has wilfully misled the people of Carmarthenshire in what he has said. This is an abuse of power. 
2.       Mr Madge has used his position within the County Council to use Council PR portals, Council Press officers to further an attack on Plaid Cymru, which was factually wrong, and was politically inspired, this was wrong and an abuse of power. 
3.       Mr Madge has not observed the correct protocols in relation to a matter being reviewed by Welsh Government and the planning process. 
4.       Mr Madge has misquoted the job creation figures, and the reasons for the call in, this is wrong. 
Councils Involvement;  
1.       The Council has allowed its web site to be used to promote factually incorrect information, the use of Council Officials, and has supported a press campaign that is factually wrong, ill conceived, and purposefully misleading.
2.       The Council has allowed a company currently involved in a disputed planning application to put its case on a Council Website, without offering those against the plan similar opportunities. 
I therefore ask that the Council suspends Councillor Madge for an abuse of power, and the dissemination of wrongful, and politically motivated misinformation determined to cause confusion, and wrongfully mislead the people of Carmarthenshire. 
That Councillor Madge make a public apology to Rhodri Glyn Thomas, Jonathan Edwards, and William Powell for the gross misrepresentation of the facts. 
That the press release is immediately with drawn from the Council website, and that an apology from Councillor Madge is posted in its place apologising for misleading the people of Carmarthenshire as to the facts in this case. 
That the Council carries out an internal investigation as to how the Public Relations Department of the Council could have allowed a Council Press Portal to be used to supply, wrong and purposefully misleading information to the Public. 
I should also say that should any legal actions follow this email that I will be paying my own legal fees, and not looking for financial support from the rate payers of Carmarthenshire. 
Simon Buckley
Chief Executive Evan-Evans Group
The offending article on the Council website can be found here , it has yet to be removed. 


Cneifiwr said...

That letter should wipe a few of those grins off.

As far as Carl Sargeant is concerned, he announced the other day that he was giving his Labour chum another £1.9m because the council has, apparently, met various targets. At least it will help with the legal fees, the new Merc and help pay the Executive Board's inflated salaries.

Anonymous said...

this isn't real labour.
mr sergeant minister for social justice.... nuff said (a2)

Anonymous said...

1.9m reward

The council was rewarded for its overall delivery of over 90 specific commitments to make improvements to health, to support people to live independent lives, support the local economy, protect children, for learning opportunities, improving housing stock, climate change mitigation, environmental improvements, cultural activities and more efficient and effective asset management.


Anonymous said...

The picture says more than words. Brothers.......of a kind?

caebrwyn said...

@Anon 18.16
Unfortunately it's not as great as it sounds. The bonus is more of a PR stunt for local authorities. They can select 10 areas identified as Welsh Assembly objectives requiring improvement, as long as the % increase is 'adequate', they get the cash. The press office then gets to work on the spin.
Carmarthenshire had already earmarked the bonus into their 3 year capital programme, despite pleas by councillors for it to form part of the revenue budget for day to day front line services.
So Cneifiwr is right, and it will also be used to fund the assorted vanity projects County Hall holds so dear.