Wednesday 15 January 2014

Garnant Golf Club...and yet another inquiry?

Update 4.04pm; There is now confirmation on Garnant Golf Club website that it has run out of cash and gone into liquidation
15th Jan; BBC Wales has now picked up the story; Garnant Golf Club liquidation: Call for inquiry by Rhodri Glyn Thomas 

A couple of years ago Carmarthenshire Council decided to offload Garnant Golf Club to private management. It was developed by the council in 1992 at a cost of around £1m and losses were, by 2011 around £150,000 per year. The council failed to find a buyer despite twenty six bidders coming forward, one of the final bidders was rejected because they "didn't provide value for money for the council" Eventually, in September 2011, a decision was made to hand over the management of the club to Wrexham based Clay's Golf on a 25 year lease with a £200,000 subsidy to the firm over the first three years, and no rent payable until 2018. Clearly this was considered to be value for money...

A couple of years and £000s of public money later, the South Wales Guardian reports that the club has closed and Clay's Golf rumoured to have gone into receivership. Opposition to the deal was voiced back in 2011 . Other clubs in the area wondered whether the council had breached EU competition rules with the subsidy...

At the time, although, to be clear, there was no criticism of Clay's Golf, there was considerable astonishment over the financial arrangements combined with the usual lack of transparency over the business case. It appears that the company had already gone through various changes. .

Cllr Kevin Madge, however, accused critics of the deal of making 'cheap political shots' and enthusiastically predicted it would 'take Garnant on to the next level'.

Oh dear.

The South Wales Guardian reports today that Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM and Cllr Dai Jenkins, Chair of the council's Audit Committee are calling for a full inquiry;

Rhodri wants inquiry into Garnant Golf Club closure 
AM Rhodri Glyn Thomas has today said a full inquiry is needed into the closure of Garnant Golf Club just weeks after the £160,000 taxpayer subsidy ended. 
Mr Thomas said serious questions need to be answered about the business case for the club and the decision to give away the best part of £200,000 of taxpayers’ money. 
The 25-year lease tender put out by Carmarthenshire County Council promised a maximum subsidy of £200,000 for the first five years. The final deal resulted in £160,000 subsidy over two years with rent free of charge until 2018. 
When Plaid first raised concerns about the deal in October 2011, the then Deputy Leader of the Council and Garnant County Councillor, Kevin Madge – now Leader of the authority – dismissed Plaid’s concerns and accused his opponents of “clueless electioneering”. 
Mr Thomas said such concerns have now been been justified and suggested that taxpayers’ money was not being spent responsibly by the Labour and Independent-run county council. 
“There is a worrying picture being painted that taxpayers’ money is not being spent responsibly," said Mr Thomas. 
“On the face of it, the closure of the golf club looks like another private project which is being underwritten by public money. The decision to provide a substantial public subsidy and six years free rent rests squarely with the leadership of the county council and the leadership must now take responsibility for its actions. 
“Residents throughout Carmarthenshire, irrespective of their political persuasion, will share Plaid Cymru’s concerns as to why money can be found for such questionable expenditures at a time when public services are being threatened. 
“Our concerns regarding the mismanagement of the golf club and the £160,000 subsidy were dismissed in 2011 as ‘clueless electioneering’. It is regrettable that our concerns have been justified.
“I would like to see a full inquiry in to the arrangement, and the initial assessment of the deal’s viability which justified such large sums of taxpayers’ money being given away. I would also like to know whether a claw back agreement was put in place to protect taxpayers’ money in this scenario. 
“The time has come for Carmarthenshire residents to say ‘enough is enough’ to this continuing mismanagement of their money.” 
MP Jonathan Edwards said it appeared golf club staff had been "kept in the dark" by Wrexham-based company Clay's Golf who have been running the club.
"This is no way in which to treat the workforce or the members who have paid to use the facility." 
David Jenkins, Chair of the county council's audit committee, is also calling for a full inquiry.
“When this deal was announced in 2011, I remember vividly saying that the only reason the golf course had become unsustainable was due to the poor management by the Labour and Independent County Council," he said. 
“Once again, it is the taxpayers of Carmarthenshire who are footing the bill for the highfalutin' ideas of the council leadership."
(Link here)


Anonymous said...

Where does the responsibility lie for holding the council to account?

caebrwyn said...

@Anon 16.05
That is one of the great unanswered questions. The responsibility lies with the councillors but as we know, this is an officer-led authority.
However, as the rap sheet grows longer day by day I have a feeling it's now only a matter of time...

Anonymous said...

Under the systems put in place by this government there is no-one "guarding the guards" so they can do anything they wantb- that is the reality.

Anonymous said...

I agree Rhodri ... a police inquiry!!!

Anonymous said...

But where is the welsh government in all this? Cardiff Bay seems to be on another planet.I like "no one is guarding the guards." Carmarthen council,chief executive senior officers and ruling party have a lot of explaining to do and who is going to make them.Their arrogance is mind-blowing in that they think people will swallow anything they trot out, seemingly now with regularity.

Anonymous said...

But you don"t get it - they don't have to explain anything to anyone, even the Welsh Government as there is no censure at all for councillors who are behaving badly. Even councillors (in Englad) who have had their fingers in the till have been allowed to continue as councillors - just like MPs.

We have no voice and no power - and they know it and behave even more badly.

We need more TRULY independent councillors who do not have to toe any party line and have no party baggage.

Anonymous said...

This (further) fiasco aptly illustrates the insidious way that the politics of privitisation works. Only naive zealots can honestly believe that the private sector can offer as good a service, for less money than the public whilst still making PROFITS. Time and again we have seen where this goes "pear-shaped". In the case of local authorities, the Council will try to apply maximum spin to absolve themselves of blame for awarding or monitoring abysmal contracts. The companies themselves (usually a separate legal entity from the mother company to limit liability) can always go bust if it becomes too much, and the directors can go on to run another one - treble brandies all round. By this time it's usually unworkable or too expensive to bring the public service back into public control. Win-win!