Monday 28 April 2014

Cllr Caiach calls for Leader's resignation over £850,000 land deal

(Update 1st May; Kevin Madge's reply to Cllr Caiach can be found here)

County Councillor Sian Caiach has called for the immediate resignation of the leader of the council, Kevin Madge, over the £850,000 land deal between Carmarthenshire Council and Scarlets Regional Ltd.
The whole issue, particularly the curious deductions and the 'allowable expenses', is now the subject of a complaint to the Wales Audit Office.

Cllr Caiach, who has also been trying to discover the truth of the matter has issued an open letter (below) to Kevin Madge following the revelations released under the Freedom of Information Act, which featured in an article in last week's Western Mail.

OPEN LETTER TO KEVIN MADGE , leader of Carmarthenshire County Council

Dear Kevin,

Your explanation of the actions in the Car Park sale is that it wasn't you, it was an Executive decision of all ten leading councillors, you hint, to give £650,000 quietly to the Scarlets and hope no-one noticed? Did they really indicate that it was their intention for Carmarthenshire County Council to give money from the sale to the Scarlets to pay a debt to Henry Davidson Developments Ltd to fit out the shop units in Eastgate?
I doubt it.

Even if it was a whole executive decision, you are still accountable. If it was an executive board project, why hide the resulting details from them?

When informed of the large share of £650,000 given to the Scarlets, you did nothing. You told no-one.

Also, since the £280,000 debt repayment grant, which surely could not be a legal expense of the sale, is above our EU State Aid three year threshold for donations limit to this private company, you should have informed the EU.
Did you inform the EU Commission before giving this exceptional disbursement to the Scarlets? No record of such action has been released.

I believe that you did not give a factual report of this allocation of the sale proceeds to your own Executive or to the Council as a whole, despite being made fully aware of the details of the sale division by Cllr Jeff Edmunds.
I have already suggested to you that you were deliberately hiding the news that the Scarlets had been given sums well over the amount our own officers recommended, finally backing down in the face of the firm insistence of our own chief executive Mr Mark James.

In fact Cllr Jeff Edmunds told me that he felt that had he not stood fast in supporting our £200,000 share, Mr James could well have pushed through a lesser sum for us and given more public money to the Scarlets. You pay Mark James a huge salary to work for us, not to give away our money to the Scarlets.

The Executive may have been under the illusion that the sale of the lease was going to be an open and lawful transaction and fair apportionment of the proceeds. It seems that you have fully supported Mr James in this matter from the start.

Your reluctance to release the facts about this sale, refusing my FOIA request as to where the "missing" £650,000 had gone when only £200,000 turned up in our accounts is deeply suspicious. It was only Cllr Jeff Edmunds, clearly dubious about aspects of the deal, who eventually decided to be open about where the money had gone.

What public good is served by all this concealment? When my constituents tell me that they cannot trust their council, as they have increasingly as of late, what can I tell them? What is the point of our code of conduct when neither the public nor your Councillors can trust what we are told?

You have not explained your actions in this case. As Leader of Council you are ultimately responsible for the actions of this Authority. You are responsible for this deal, a sale of a public asset primarily to support the local regional rugby team.

We could have got perhaps another £200,000 or more from this sale if you and the Chief Executive had actually cared for the needs of the people we serve rather than the desire of a sports team to reduce their debts through public funds?

We could have had more than £200,000 less to cut next year if you had decided differently. Have you not once considered the consequences of your actions? We are in an economic recession and many of our people are poor and suffering and frankly, we have neither the time nor the resources to waste on petty expenditures and political power games.

If the council were a business that could safely pursue profit and connections without a thought to the public, this would be nothing but a simple bungle. But we are not a business. We have a duty to serve our people first and foremost, and particularly those who are weakest and most in need of our aid. Not private sports teams, not building companies, and not ourselves.

Whatever motivations there were for this stupid, stupid decision and all the wasted efforts of covering up and hiding the details that have followed, it needs to end now.

To me this appears to be maladministration in public office. You were not there when the decision was made and may not have had prior warning of what idiocy was planned. But when informed of it you deliberately concealed the transaction from both Councillors and the public.

You could have stopped in hours what has wasted a year of our time and money, but you chose not to. Why did you do this?
If you were bullied, if you were ashamed, fearful of reprisal, or even if you are really more sympathetic to giving money to the Scarlets than keeping it for the people who elected you, it doesn't matter.

You have acted despicably, ignoring your commitment to the Nolan Principles of honesty, accountability, openness, objectivity, transparency and leadership.

I ask again for your immediate resignation.

Councillor Sian Caiach  

People First - Gwerin Gyntaf
Carmarthenshire County Councillor for Hengoed Ward,


Anonymous said...

I don't understand why the Eu hasn't investigated the whole stadium deal yet, I was hoping at least they would look into and provide justice for the common people in this county.

Lesley said...

Well done Sian - I applaud you for your courage and honesty and for your diligence in pursuing this matter. You stand alone in this despicable council as an exemplar of what a councillor should be and how a councillor should act and I really don't know how you manage to carry on in the face of the bullying and derision that comes your way continually. And the same can be said of Jacqui - another woman who has been an example to us all. I salute you both.

Mrs Angry said...

Councillor Caiach is that rare thing: an elected member who retains a sense of duty to the electorate, and dares to tell the truth when so many keep quiet. If only more were like her, local government - or indeed national government would be so much more open and honest. Well said.

Redhead said...

Another thing for the police investigation too - their economic crimes unit perhaps?

Anonymous said...

Begs the question what other 'deals' have been done that we, their paymasters, are unaware of.

Perhaps the police need to extend their enquiries, but this is all getting very messy now.

sian caiach said...

The EU commssion unfortunately work at a snails pace and then, even after being found guilty, a defendant can drag matters on in the infringement process.
For example it took, I beleive, 6 years or more before Stradey resident David Rees' complaint about the continuing pollution of the Burry Inlet by raw sewage was heard {later joined by the cockle gatherers whose livelihood has suffered.]
Luckily, the UK government, on being presented with the evidence of the raw sewage pollution, immediately admitted the complainant [despite the Welsh government, Welsh water and of course the local county council having insisted for years that there was no problem, the water was clean and the cockles were dying for other reasons].
Welsh water has initiated a few small scale schemes to reduce the sewage system overloading after any significant rainfall, resulting presently in raw sewage being dumped hundreds of time a year. This looks like inadequate sticking plaster solutions.The council's planning committee respond to every "improvement" by welsh water by building hundreds more houses, and the EU may eventually heavily fine the UK government for the environmental disaster.
I have put a complaint into the EU concerning state aid to Scarlets. I suspect the EU response to the state aid issue will be a lengthy process of several years after which the Scarlets will probably have to pay back the excess amounts donated by the Council.
I presume Cllr Madge and the others concerned plan to be enjoying their retirement by the time the Scarlets get the bill. In the meantime the council should surely stop giving our money to
the Scarlets?

Anonymous said...

Powerful stuff !

Western Mail - Take note cos nobody else will !!

Wavell said...

Well said Sian.
You have definitely got my vote.

Redhead said...

Why would Councillor Madge resign from such a well-paid post with such lovely perks. No, he will not jump so he will have to be pushed.

Anonymous said...

I have to say as a man,it is the women that show guts in
this county,well done to you to stand up to the tyrants in the Carmarthen kremlin.

Tessa said...

Well done Sian! I have huge admiration for your determination and stoicism. I've seen how unpleasantly and dismissively you've been treated at council meetings yet you haven't given up from this or the other attempts to sideline or hoodwink you. A true woman of honour. I think your letter is excellent - honest, heartfelt, and blunt. Well done, and keep going.

Redhead said...

... And whose signatures are on the agreement documents?