Thursday, 25 September 2014

Meryl's grants - the press office to the rescue!

With the increasing interest in what have become known as Meryl's Millions, the council seem to be going to some lengths to assure the enquiring public that everything is above board.

As I have said, the Wales Audit Office remains less than satisfied with the council's grant management system, for the third year running.

Yesterday's publication of the most recent speculative award of £302k from the South West Wales Property Development Fund includes an explanation using warm words such as 'due diligence', low risk', and 'satisfied the agreed procurement rules'. There is nothing unusual in these grants of course, what is unusual is the sudden desire to add the explanation, it's as if a nerve has been touched somewhere...

What probably doesn't help matters, in the transparency stakes at least, is that these meetings are held in private and the agenda isn't published until several days after the event.

Just to be on the safe side, and to stave off those..erm..enquiring minds, Meryl and Co have today called in the help of the propaganda division, the council press office.

The press release announces the start of an office development in Carmarthen which had benefited from another speculative £400k SWWPDF grant to Hacer Developments Ltd.

The press release hails the possible creation of 17 jobs, which is slightly overshadowed by the fact that the offices will be occupied by Bro Myrddin Housing Association who are relocating from the other side of town and presumably relocating the jobs in the process.
For good measure, the press release goes into some detail about the structure and benefits of the SWWPDF

As I said, there is nothing unusual in these grants, nor am I suggesting there is anything wrong with the successful applicants. Personally I find it odd, in these austere times that the fund is prepared to give large grants to entirely speculative projects, you would think that the element of risk would be too great.

However, the press release quotes an enthusiastic Meryl; “I am pleased that the South West Wales Property Development Fund has been able to help take forward this venture which will provide high quality office space in Carmarthen.”

Which is not dissimilar to this quote in January 2013 (another speculative grant to a sister company of Hacer Developments Ltd) “It is good news that the South West Wales Property Development Fund has been able to help bring about this venture to provide industrial space at Llanelli Gate which is a major hub for business in Carmarthenshire with the advantage of excellent transport links.”

..and remarkably similar to this quote, also in 2013;“I am pleased that the South West Wales Property Development Fund has been able to help take forward this venture which will provide high quality office space in Carmarthen. The end occupier and their customers, have the benefit of excellent transport links to and from the site.” referring to an earlier grant to the same company featuring in yesterday's decision.

Anyway, it seems that what Meryl may lack in the way of original quotes she has more than made up for in the latest photo shoot. Keen to assure her adoring public, she appears (2nd from right) to have rushed straight out of bed and turned up in her dressing gown; 


A retired surveyor said...

The South Wales Property Development Fund is funded entirely with EU money, and is designed to offer grants up to 50% of the cost of speculative property development. These grants are only available in the 4local authorities of South West Wales and are offered in the absence of such grants which used to be available from the former WDA. The greater risk of such speculative development lies with the developer, and it is no surprise that any developers wishing to apply for this grant would strive to ensure that they had "pre-lets" or "end users" lined up before committing their own funds to a project. I do not know anything about Hacer, but it seems that Carmarthenshire (and possibly one or more of the other 3 Councils) may be fortunate to have a developer which actually wants to construct job-creating accommodation on a semi-speculative basis.

caebrwyn said...

@a retired surveyor
You are probably correct and as I said I am not being critical of the companies involved. I would caution against comparing the SWWPDF with the Welsh Development Agency though, which I seem to remember had something of a chequered past...

Anonymous said...

IF I not mistaken Plaid former leader and Carmarthen Councillor Peter Hughes Griffiths was happy to be included in the photo

A retired surveyor said...

Not everything the WDA did was ineffective. It's property grants initiatives did the Assisted Areas of Wales a great deal of good, in assisting the creation of serviced sites and premises for business. It was all the other (non-property) related tasks which the Assembly piled on the WDA which dragged the Agency down. Then the Assembly became extremely envious of WDA's high profile. Since WDA was disbanded, Wales hasn't had a Brand Image.

Joe said...

A bit like this blog then!

Anonymous said...

EU money is taxpayers' money, or money borrowed which EU residents will have to repay. It is not a magic pot.