Wednesday 11 July 2018

Wellness Village 'private partners'...something oddly familiar?

...and a post on the 13th December; Full Council - Wellness Village, the emperor's new clothes and 'Cadno' visits the bog 

Even later post, 6th December, The Wellness Village - The end?

Later post, 26th November, 'A Wellness hiccup?', here

Later post, 31st August, here.

A minor flurry of press releases yesterday announced the identity of private sector partner who will be developing the 'Wellness Village' at the Delta Lake swamp, Llanelli, with the council and Swansea University, all part of the PFI-style Swansea Bay City Deal.

The 'Sterling' photoshoot
The company is called Sterling Health, trading as Sterling Health Security Holdings Ltd. The company was set up in 2015 and has sister companies called Sterling Health Security Property Ltd, Sterling Health Security Operating Ltd and Sterling Health Security International Ltd, set up last year.

There is something oddly familiar with all this.

In 2016, in secret session, the council's Executive Board entered a twelve month 'exclusivity agreement' with Kent Neurosciences Ltd to 'develop' the Village.
By May last year the 12 month agreement had not been renewed and had been quietly dropped. The company subsequently dissolved itself in May 2018 with the last set of accounts showing a deficit of £128k. Professor Marc Clement (who is the Swansea University part of the deal, pictured above on the right) was a director until 2015. Other key directors included Mr Franz Dickmann, James Dickmann and Phyllis Holt-Dickmann, clinicians and business people.

Carmarthenshire blog, West Wales News Review took a good look at Kent Neurosciences in 2016 and there were some interesting connections, not least of all to a loss making private hospital in Kent and offshore tax havens in the British Virgin Islands. The hospital opened in 2014 but by 2016 required a £20m refinancing deal due to heavy losses. Most of the original directors had, by that time, moved on.

The 'official' reason why the 12 month Wellness Village deal with Kent Neurosciences Ltd was not renewed was that the project was SO BIG that a wider net had to be cast to incorporate a more diverse developer.
They also had to be able to come up with £127.5m to chip in to the project...

It was somewhat surprising therefore to see that Sterling Health appears to be Kent Neurosciences by another name and includes the same directors, ie the Dickmann clan. The 'Sterling' group of companies have yet to submit any detailed or useful accounts. However, as the council press release states, it "leads a prestigious consortium of global companies", whoever they may be, and searching Companies House certainly takes you down an endless rabbit warren of linked companies and directors, and the Kent connections.

A very recent addition to the list of Directors of both Sterling Holdings, and Sterling Operating is none other than our old friend, former council leader and loyal rubber stamper of the chief executive's unlawful behaviour, Meryl Gravell. Meryl has been loitering in the background ever since as Chair of the 'Arch' health board collaboration thing.

How the same company re-emerged under a different name within a myriad of companies, and the consequential lack of clarity over business track records, will probably remain a mystery, under the helpful shroud of 'commercial confidentiality' and all that. As will the secretive procurement process and the details of the financial deal which has been struck with the council.
Clearly, as has been said before, the emphasis is on private health care, and a luxury health spa, in which the council, under the lead of Mr James, will be investing heavily.
All quite remarkable.

West Wales News Review ends its 2016 piece with another important point; "..could the Wellness Centre be a conduit for public money to flow through networks of companies into far-away entities registered in the British Virgin Islands and other tax havens?"

I would imagine that is entirely possible.

This blog is not suggesting, not for one moment, that there is anything wrong with the arrangement, merely suggesting that it might benefit from some democratic scrutiny... Unsurprisingly there has been none at all so far, and, as ever, Carmarthenshire's taxpayers deserve better.

For previous posts on the Wellness Village and Swansea Bay City Deal please use the search box on the right hand side of this blog


Anonymous said...

Worth a read

Sian Caiach said...

The Wellness project appears quite bizarre, my suspicion is that none of the "partners" have any intention of actually funding the development to any meaningful extent, some of them are apparently already in some financial difficulty. The pattern of companies hovering over Wales to feed on grants and subsidies and avoiding scrutiny by changing company names and setting up complicated business models is well established. The surfacing of former Council leader Mrs Meryl Gravell from the swamp is no surprise.Presumably Carmarthenshire County Council will develop the site and try to lease out the buildings. It could be a very expensive Wellness Industrial Park.

A family friend who actually works in investment management. asked me what the expected returns were from private investment in this site? This has not yet been made clear.but without such information proper businesses are not going to invest.

The next question is why is this the perfect site for a care home and a private wellness health centre? Its polluted and next to a sewage pumping works which has now expanded ready to pump out the drainage of groundwater from Llanelli into Delta Lakes. Previously this was getting into the sewers and ovrwjelming the treatment centres.

I recently visited the new Sewage/ground water Pumping Station which borders the north eastern side of Delta Lakes and currently spills sewage into the River Dafen Lake. After the completion of the Llanelli Rainscape project Welsh Water are confident that most of the time they will keep the sewage spills to 10 per year but they do not seem keen to move the outflow from the pumping station away from Delta Lakes as requested in the plan's. CC's drainage report that unless this outflow pipe is diverted it will limit the amount of land able to be used in the project in both the East and West plots .
Every urban sewage pumping station needs an emergency venting arrangement to stop residential sewage flooding, and for the nearby town there is no other route obviously available for this pipe other than along the lake and out to sea via the lake.

Drainage will need to be significantly overhauled for this large development and the added cost to the City Deal Project is not known and neither is who will pay for it?
As the ARUP Jan. 18 drainage report summary says:

"Initial consultation with DCWW indicated that the local sewer network does not have sufficient capacity to accept the flows from the proposed development and that Hydraulic Modelling Assessment needs to be undertaken".

The Lake is to be used as an attenuation feature, ie a reservoir for surface drainage from the site . The whole area was an industrial rubbish tip, the lake contains some contamination from this, I gather copper is a feature.The Lake is tidal and if drainage from the site is increased by storm water drainage and/or the large amount of ground water is about to be pumped in from the new network in Llanelli, there is some risk of this contamination going into the shell fish fishery of the Loughor Estuary which is also a NATURA site. NRW, in charge of the Shellfish Fishery and environment, has got to test the degree of pollution before the lake can be washed out by the extra drainage volumes.

There seams to be a lot of work to be planned, assessed for safety and costed before the first brick can be laid. The Welsh water drainage of the nearby residential areas will not be completed until 2020. Only then can the full amount of increased water to be pumped into the lake be assessed under the new drainage system.

I did ask Mr Mark James the County Council's CEO, why he had selected such a godforsaken site? He replied saying "where else could we find 40 acres so cheap?" presumably referring to the Council actually owning the land. Of course its theoretically the public who own the land and in this case hopefully not the public who suffer if this project goes sour?

Anonymous said...

You refer to a document that is 7 years our of date, how desperate are you?

Any evidence nothing has changed? No. Move on.


Keanjo said...

This brings to mind the Blaenau Gwent race track proposal which was given millions of £s of public money at development stage when anyone with one iota of common sense knew it was a non starter.

Sian Caiach said...

Using Google and free access to companies House records, of these 4 companies, only the Stirling Health Security international Ltd and Sterling Health Security Operating Ltd are listed as "active" rather than the 2 others which are described as active{dormant} and not obviously trading with no recent accounts. As the" Active" listed companies were ,incorporated less than a year ago ,accounts have not yet been submitted but the other companies seem to have assets of £!00 each and employee numbers are undeclared, presumably nil.. So this group of companies definitely have £200 to play with but no capital or assets are yet declared on the 2 new companies. Mrs Gravell was only made a director of one of them this month.

I am more than a little bit sceptical as to the ability of these outfits to come up with funding of £127.5 million. They do not obviously appear to have assets against which to borrow this money ,nor a healthy and vibrant business from the information currently available to the public on line.

Could they merely be a front for the true but timid generous private investor in this exciting project who wishes to remain anonymous? Or are these companies run by the same 2 people part of a smokescreen to pretend that there is a big private massive investment to the Delta lakes Project from them, to follow imminently?

The Council could use the funding from the UK Government to start the project and then hope the large private investment turns up before the original grant money runs out?

The standard response of the council to requests about finance involving other partners is to cite business confidentiality and refuse to answer. However, in this case can they confirm that this partner is actually a substantial business rather than a number of minimal company registrations at Companies House?

In the information available to the public about these closely related public limited companies there is no evidence yet that they are even trading and no sufficient capital assets are evident to secure more than a tiny fraction of the finance for the Wellness project.Its a bit of a concern to council tax payers like myself.

Surely we need answers here?

Could we in Carmarthenshire be about to start a complex construction project without sight or promise of the substantial investment we need to complete the job? Surely not!

Redhead said...

We have had something similar in my part of the world ... a development site with planning permission that keeps changing hands (almost yearly over the past 6-7 years) - going to banks in odd places, then returning to ownership by former owners in new companies. However, with ours the money and "investment" moves between Ukraine, Russia and Saudi Arabia. Odd that.

Anonymous said...

The business track record of Prof. Marc Clement is quite "colourful" to say the least. Having spent millions of WDA/Welsh Government money on various university "projects" in Swansea and Cardiff, he (allegedly) had involvement/oversight in the conferring of degrees to foreign students studying in Cardiff, some of whom did not speak English and were barely literate.
Clement was also the driving force of the failed Technium experiment, which was a "collaboration" between the WDA and Swansea University. In other words, the WDA put all the money in and Clement's Department "ran" the Techniums, with annual payments being made by the EU.

Anonymous said...

The University of Wales is to stop validating all external degrees at home and abroad. and it has a new vice chancellor, Professor Medwin Hughes. This has happened eventually, after years of pressure, first from bloggers, and then from BBC Wales. That is a tacit admission that their validation procedures were useless, and bordering on the corrupt.

But the news doesn’t appear on the University of Wales front page. It is hidden away in a news item. With the incredible spin it is billed as “University of Wales launches bold new academic strategy“. No admission of the bad mistakes appears anywhere. Still worse, the vice-chancellor who was responsible for years of malpractice, Marc Clement, has not vanished, but has been promoted to be president of the University of Wales. It was Professor Clement who claimed, in November 2010, to be taken by “complete and total surprise“, when Welsh education minister accused him of bring the University of Wales into disrepute. This, sadly, cannot be true. I know that Clement was well aware of my 2008 blog, and of the opinion of Polly Toynbee. He’d corresponded with both of us in 2008.

Anonymous said...

The common denominator for Sterling Health and its directors appears to be a plethora of recently formed and dormant companies with little to show in terms of trading, turnover or assets. I suppose Meryl Gravell may have been brought in for her past form in being able to award a multi million pound grant to a dormant company, with no trading history or assets, in less than 15 minutes at a meeting held behind closed doors in 2014. That decision was referred to the WAO by Roger Jones, who was then the council's Director of Resources.

The lack of democratic financial scrutiny at CCC was flagged up by the WAO in its Corporate Assessment Report published in 2016, it states “Unlike most authorities, the Council’s corporate risk register is not overseen by the Audit Committee. The Audit Committee receives the minutes of the risk management steering group but not the register itself. This prevents the Audit Committee delivering its remit on risk and precludes any wider political or public involvement in the Council’s approach to managing risks. It is unclear how this arrangement contributes to the Council’s stated aim to become the most open and transparent council in Wales.” It would seem that this state of affairs still prevails.

Anonymous said...

CEO Mark James briefed the Carmarthenshire Councillors Groups that Pfizer, the multinational drug company with real money, was due to be one of the "partners". Where did they go?

caebrwyn said...

Anon 8:40
Yes indeed, see my post here from December.

And as I said here, City Deal - A scandal in the making and the wrong man for the job the other three councils in the City Deal should think twice before involving themselves in a Mark James vanity project; your taxpayers' money could be going down the same pan as Carmarthenshire's.
You have been warned.

Brychan said...

Perhaps Sian Caiach is unaware that the biggest holding of shares in Sterling Health Security Operating Ltd is Franz Dickmann who is the marketing director of Kent Institute of Medicine & Surgery.

This company which the Delta Lakes Llanelli project is dealing with is the broker for the private investment.

Dickmann has done such a deal before. He brokered the deal for a multi-million pound private hospital near Maidstone in Kent. The way it works is the private health companies like Bupa and Spire have a capital investment fund and Dickmann acts as the broker for them. The private hospital in Kent takes the majority of it’s patients from the NHS via Clinical Commissioning Groups and makes it’s profits by siphoning off NHS funds.

This is the plan for Delta Lakes in Llanelli. The real plan in to establish a private hospital in West Wales at Delta Lakes to conduct NHS ‘routine surgery’ for a profit.

Here is the link to one deal already brokered..

The question arrises as to why a Plaid Cymru council and a Labour Welsh Government are complicit and colluding with this privatisation. Vaughan Gething, Mark James and Meryl Gravell are aware of the Dickmann brokerage, although Meryl is the first in the queue to take cash in return for services as co-director.

caebrwyn said...

Thank you Brychan, I think you're spot on.
The private hospital in Maidstone is the Kent Institute of Medicine and Surgery; part of a group of companies called KIMS holdings ltd (and several variations on the same). KIMS Property Holdings Ltd was wound up last year with net liabilities of £33m (2016; £22m) with the shareholders owed around £8.5m and an imminent call-in of a bank loan This company was sold to a 'new' company, KIMS Kent Property Holdings, for £100, this company will, apparently, take on the various liabilities.
Franz Dickmann appears to have left the group in 2015 but James Dickmann was a director of the subsidiaries until earlier this year.
The immediate parent company is Regional Healthcare Ltd (from a previous 'restructuring' arrangement) registered in Cyprus, and the ultimate parent company is Mercury Management Enterprises Corp registered in the British Virgin Islands...
James Dickmann runs another company, Medparc Ltd, a management consultancy which recently advised the Royal Brompton NHS Hospital to 'tap into demand from private patients' to stave off a financial crisis.

Anyone who has had a chance to go down the rabbit warren of Companies House will find something of a tangled web, with some ending up, it seems, either dissolved or in far flung tax havens. That's without the rise, fall, and reappearance of Kent Neurosciences as detailed in the post. I am no expert and am merely commenting on what I can see in the public domain, whether it inspires confidence or not is up to the reader to judge.

Whatever the case, as Brychan says, and as I have been saying all along "The real plan in to establish a private hospital in West Wales at Delta Lakes to conduct NHS ‘routine surgery’ for a profit."

And Brychan also makes perhaps the most important point, and it's worth repeating - "The question arises as to why a Plaid Cymru council and a Labour Welsh Government are complicit and colluding with this privatisation. Vaughan Gething, Mark James and Meryl Gravell are aware of the Dickmann brokerage, although Meryl is the first in the queue to take cash in return for services as co-director."

Why indeed.

Sian Caiach said...

Thanks a lot,Brychan.

So these people are probably only City Deal Partners in that they will broker loans to finance a likely private hospital rather than personally finance the project? So they are increasing the overall debt rather than offsetting it by investing real capital. With their record, will they own the hospital,with an option to refinance and sell on the asset? The County will probably gift them the land. just like the Eastgate, which will enhance their profit.

It may explain the newest addition planned for Delta Lakes Which is the Hywel Dda medical "Hub" which will facilitate the community access of patients to services such as GPs, clinics and medical tests. As so few people live near Delta lakes it seems a strange location but it could be very useful to a private hospital, it may even be part of the hospital.

A new private hospital lets Hywel Dda off the hook if it takes a fair number of
NHS patients for operations etc. The new state of the art NHS hospital on the Pembs border will too far away for Llanelli residents to easily access when Carmarthen is downgraded, and it has been suggested that the Swansea Hospitals will take emergency patients from East Carmarthenshire.[small private hospitals don't generally have facilities for the very sick and if their own get really sick, send then to the NHS].

Money will follow the patient, the Health Board tell us, and public money may well follow patients into a new private Hospital at Delta lakes.

Personally I never did any private practice. Imagine, though, if you could routinely get paid private practice rates for doing NHS operations on top of your NHS salary? This commonly happens in "waiting list initiatives" where doctors agree to extra work for the NHS as long as they get private rates. Local surgeons and anaesthetists etc could use this new facility, be paid generously extra by the NHS, and the private hospital also take a good fee for patient care.

This certainly is privatising the NHS. Locals will easily be enticed to use the new private hospital for "free" routine NHS operations and their own NHS consultants, drawing full NHS salaries, will operate there, and be paid extra private practice rates.

The downside is that the private providers can soon dictate the rates and the NHS pays considerably more for each treatment than in an NHS hospital, If the new reconfiguration is taking the private hospital into consideration, Hywel Dda may reduce their NHS surgical beds capacity overall to save money in the short term and pay through the nose in the future. The public get their operations but the NHS gets fleeced.

Am I surprised that Plaid and Labour are complicit? No. Their group leaders will have been told its the only possible option. Distasteful but necessary. The public good etc. Very woolly on detail. They are councillors, few if any probably have any experience of how the NHS is run and managed or of control of major financial projects. They trust the Chief Executive. The Council Leader and the "advice" they are given.

Privatisation of the NHS. Perfectly legal. Totally immoral!

Brychan said...

There are three things the private sector needs to obtain financial returns on investments like Delta Lakes.

(a) A geographical monopoly on a facility for the very expensive equipment like CT and MRI scanners. Major Trauma Units need to be located as far away as possible. This explains why the MTU went to Cardiff, just round the corner from an existing MTU in Bristol. Not as all special-population studies recommended, at Morriston. This allows the privately owned expensive equipment to be available for rent to the NHS for routine medicine, without the facility being rudely interrupted with critical need. Send the difficult ones down the M4 and hope they arrive breathing.
(b) Establish a “granny farm” on-site as a ready market. Patients with expensive needs, like the elderly, can be housed in ‘care’ units, on-site, paid for by the council. Arrangements like selling off the family home can then part-fund the private medical bills. A kind of ‘Delta Pathway’ encampment for the terminally ill.
(c) An over-priced consultancy for the ‘well worried’. This is where a pay-as-you-go invoice can get sent to the health board, rather than recruiting GPs into local medical centres. GPs become referral units for puss, piles and toenails. Once such patients are sold to the Delta, extra’s can then be added on such as exercise classes, diet plans, and various ‘alternative therapies’, pins, potions and pongs.

Also, beware of the ‘state of the art medical research’ boast. The best studies are done on humans. I know of no connection between Mengele and Dickmann but if you live in social housing and the doctor says you’re a “special case and we have some groundbreaking treatment just made available” it might not be what it seems.

Anonymous said...

To see why the exclusivity agreement with Kent Neurosciences was dropped see section 6.1 of this document, It appears that it’s OK and legal for secret, unaccountable deals when spending Carmarthenshire residents’ money but not so when external City Deal funding money is concerned. You can’t help wondering just how fair the new tendering process could have been as it would seem apparent that Sterling Health aka Kent Neurosciences would have had an unfair from the outset.

Sian Caiach - I am surprised that Emlyn Dole and Plaid councillors are complicit in the creation of a private hospital. Only a couple of weeks ago, on the 70th anniversary of the NHS, Rhun ap Iorwerth AM, Plaid Cymru’s shadow health secretary said, “There are those on the right of politics who still question the sustainability of the NHS and think that privatisation is the way forward and raise fears of an onslaught of people seeking free prescriptions and so on.”

caebrwyn said...

Thank you Anon 08:37, yes, that was the only document where I could find a 'reason' for dropping the 2016 Kent Neurosciences agreement,(see post), there was not one mention of it in any council documents.

I hope councillors, politicians, or the Wales Audit Office demand some answers over all this, and not just nod along with it all - something stinks.

Unfortunately, asking Mark James CBE about it is a little pointless as you can never, ever, believe a word he says.

caebrwyn said...

For those concerned about the decline of Llanelli town centre, this article from 2014 suggests that the new 'Wellness' partners, Sterling, are particularly keen on out-of-town retail parks, not a good omen;

caebrwyn said...

The latest accounts for Sterling Health Security Holdings Ltd, of which Meryl is now a director, have just been published, show a net liability of £137,822 in the red, it requires a loan from the directors to continue as a going concern.

Tessa said...

Same as with the Llanelli Scarlets, they were going tits-up - auditors were going to qualify the accounts regarding their ability as a going concern so they didn't file their accounts (they went manty months overdue), until AFTER the Council meeting where the bailout was approved (albeit given a different name) - then - Hurrah! They COULD continue as a going concern, auditors removed their qualification, and accounts were finally filed with Companies House.

caebrwyn said...

As the former Police Commissioner said, "Carmarthenshire Council, Wales' answer to a Sicilian cartel...It extracts vast amounts of money from residents which it showers on favourites, hordes property, bullies opponents, co-opts friends and answers to no one, least of all local councillors."

Pembrokeshire Council became the final council to sign up to the City Deal Joint Agreement yesterday. Their council Leader appears to have spent far too much time with Mark James, repeatedly peddling out the nonsense to councillors that, apart from the £50k pa admin costs, the Deal "wouldn't cost the council (ie taxpayers) a penny". We've heard it all before...and so have Boston.

Despite the claim that the selection of Sterling was through a 'robust' competitive tendering process, it appears, from the contract award notice, that Sterling (after it transformed itself from the dissolved Kent Neurosciences) was the only bidder. This is odd considering that the Wellness Thing has been plugged as a once-in-a-generation opportunity...and that the tender was worth £250m.
It also seems that the Council have decided that Vinci Construction will be building at least some of the development. In a remarkable coincidence Vinci Construction also happen to have built the KIMS private hospital in Maidstone, for the Dickmann clan...