Friday 26 January 2018

News round up - City Deals, 'Teckals' and more...

I would hope that the collapse of Carillion has, if nothing else, put the brakes on the PFI-style arrangement known as the Swansea Bay City Deal, or Techniums Part 2 for those with longer memories..... Before the four councils, or even the health boards (currently considering hospital closures) commit to million of pounds of public debt in joint initiatives with private investors, due diligence should be reviewed and public accountability and transparency strengthened.

One of the key City Deal developers, so far, is national construction company Kier Group. The firm set up an outpost in Swansea in 2016 and have already joined with the University of Wales Trinity St David, and the council, to develop the Yr Egin/S4C cultural 'hub' in Carmarthen and various Uni 'hubs' on the Swansea Riviera. Whether they'll be involved in the exciting Wellness private healthcare vanity project on the Delta Lake swamp remains to be seen...

Yr Egin, Carmarthen
Kier is not Carillion of course but an interesting article caught my attention in this week's Private Eye and it would seem that there are some troubling parallels:

Private Eye No.1462

Oh, and for an enlightened take on one of the Pembrokeshire 'City Deal' projects, have a read of Pembs councillor Mike Stoddart's 'Old Grumpy' blog here.
And for more on the City Deal/Wellness Shed, please search this blog.

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Up in North Wales, Wrexham to be exact, councillors have been ordered by officers not to share extracts of council webcasts. It would seem that they've been taking lessons in control freakery from our own County Hall, though I doubt they'll actually be arrested...

Claiming copyright of such material as a means to prevent dissemination, for whatever purpose, is a profoundly backwards step and clearly the real issue is a fear that someone might edit a titbit and make someone look silly. In Carmarthenshire they do that all by themselves, no need for editing.
As Wrexham Council have the 'Master copy' they've no need to fret. Same in Carms, who have also taken the extra step of banning public filming of anything which isn't webcast...

* * *

On the subject of transparency, or lack thereof, the council have been busy recently setting up various arms length companies for housing, waste services and the Careline social care 24 hour helpline, and no doubt there are more in the pipeline. The latter two will apparently be 'Teckal' compliant which means, in a nutshell, that they will be controlled by the council (to start with anyway) and will be able to trade privately for around 20% of their income. It also removes the necessity to openly tender for these services.

Whether this is the thin end of the wedge towards back door privatisation remains to be seen. The emphasis will shift to profit and over-ambitious predicted 'savings' may never materialise. The new Careline company, which has yet to be politically approved, has already been named (Lleisant Delta Wellbeing Ltd) and appears to have been registered on company house on the 15th January by the Wolverhampton based consultants brought in to advise the council a couple of years ago; their costs, by 2016 were £62,400, and, presumably, are still rising.

The waste service, discussed in private at last Monday's Executive Board meeting, is currently run by Cwm Environmental, also wholly owned by the council but whose contract has come to an end.

The council have been poring over the problem of renewing the contract for around three years and have brought in Geldards lawyers, Eunomia Consultancy and KPMG to advise. The cost of all this advice is unknown but unlikely to be cheap. KPMG have recently been in the news for signing off Carillion's accounts as all fine and dandy a few short months ago...

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I notice that Carmarthenshire council is in a shortlist of ten for a Chartered Institute of Housing award for tackling homelessness. I don't want to take any credit away from hardworking staff but is the esteemed Institute aware that the chief executive of this council spent a small fortune (of his own money, we are led to believe), used council facilities and employed three barristers to try and render myself and my family homeless last year? He's clearly not a team player...

Interestingly, and according to the CIH website, it costs around £2000 to book a table for the glittering London awards ceremony in May. That's without train fares and hotel bookings. Let's hope none of the attendees trip over the homeless people sheltering under the canopies of the Park Plaza.

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Finally, news that Labour MP for Wansbeck, Ian Lavery is in hot water for using House of Commons notepaper and postage to issue legal threats to local constituents on Facebook also caught my attention (well, it would wouldn't it). According to the MPs' Code of Conduct such facilities, ie taxpayer funded facilities, are not to be used for financial gain.

How different things are in the Wild West of Wales where our chief executive used considerably more than the cost of a publicly funded postage stamp for his own financial gain, and illegally to boot. Lesser mortals might have been had up for fraud.

County Hall is not the House of Commons though, it has its own rules, devised or flouted according to the personal requirements of Mr James CBE...such a trustworthy individual.


Anonymous said...

Wrexham's actions seem to fly in the face of the Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2015 [and in particular s12(2)a]

Anonymous said...

I see that former CCC deputy chief executive Dave Gilbert was appointed to the board of Cwm Environmental soon after his retirement from the council – jobs for the boys?

caebrwyn said...

Anon 26th Jan
Thanks for that. The legislation can be found here and hopefully it will assist Wrexham Council, and Carmarthenshire.

Anon 16:18
Yes, the revolving doors of Carmarthenshire. He also became a Welsh Government adviser to the Swansea Bay City Region.

Anonymous said...

As to the reference to "Old Grumpy" posts - and the leader of Swansea Council making his way down to Pembrokeshire - presumably to say how connecting the furthest point west to the fortunes of Swansea under the city deal will bring prosperity to that County must strike fear to all Pembrokeshire residents

Relying on Swansea to bring such fortunes is a joke - its one of the poorest cities and has a history of failed projects

Just look at its transport system a standing joke in the city with so many traffic lights which takes people hours just to go from Mumbles to Briton Ferry and onto the M4. And then a few more hours to get through the most congested piece of motorway in Wales

Swansea has some many problems it will only drag down Pembrokeshire - they will be better off going it alone

Anonymous said...

As mentioned - here is the current bio for Dave Gilbert - he keeps himself busy after retirement and can look on from far at all the white elephants roaming the region with plenty more to come

Dave Gilbert OBE

Dave has recently retired from the role of Deputy Chief Executive at Carmarthenshire County Council where he was responsible for Regeneration and Leisure. He had previously worked for Local Authorities in both England and Wales. Dave has been involved in many major projects in SouthWest Wales including Baglan Energy Park, Parc y Scarlets Stadium in Llanelli and the multi layered Carmarthen town expansion.

Dave is a Board member of the South Wales Chamber of Commerce and a past president. For the past three years he has been chair of trustees of the Wales Air Ambulance and the charity has a new headquarters in the region and is leading the way in the UK with a flying doctor service. He is also the non executive chair of Cwm Environmental based in Carmarthenshire.

In 2012 Dave was awarded an OBE for services to Regeneration and Skills in south West Wales

Anonymous said...

‘Llesiant Delta Wellbeing’ – can anyone guess where this LATC will be eventually located? Seems to be a very chancy exercise to protect 5 jobs with the addition of a top-heavy management structure (more jobs for the boys?) and fill empty office space at Delta Lakes.

caebrwyn said...

Anon 15:18
Mr James could always depend on Deputy Dave...and probably still can. I also seem to remember that Mr Gilbert's retirement from the council coincided with the unravelling of the Pembrey Park scandal

Anon 07:14
Indeed, there is already talk of moving the service from Eastgate to the 'Wellness' village - with the usual scenario being that the council generously gift land to developer and promise to provide new owners with a guaranteed income by renting back 'office space' for the next 20 years. Eastgate is now owned by Standard Life Investments so it is their shareholders and directors who will benefit from any profit and not the taxpayers of Carmarthenshire. The same scenario will play out on Delta Lakes, despite the millions of pounds of taxpayers' money involved. As we have discovered, the interests of the taxpayers'and residents of Carmarthenshire are never a priority for Mr James.

Anonymous said...

The report that was put in front of the Audit Committee was NOT the report written to cover the Pembrey Scandal. There is apparently another document covering those allegations, although there is no trace or mention of such a report in any of the Audit Committee minutes.
Perhaps the executive board needs to look a little closer?