Here's this week's 'Cadno' opinion piece, from the Carmarthenshire Herald;
Cadno and the light of truth
They fly through the air. They are faster than a speeding bullet. Saving the world from aliens, supervillains and the undead, superheroes do a stand-up job for humanity.
What of Carmarthenshire’s own superhero.
By day, he’s an ever-so-humble Chief Executive but in his leisure hours out come the tights and embarrassing Lycra as Mark James becomes CeeBeeBees Man. Out and about on his bike (saddle an optional extra), Marky Mark pedals the highways and byways of Carmarthenshire on his wonder bike seeking out rights to wrong. Or something like that.
His special power?
Blowing huge sums of public money on white elephants and telling everyone they’re a success.
So far, Cadno admits, this column has been knockabout raillery aimed at mocking the beloved Mark Vincent James’s high opinion of himself. He does not need to be placed on a pedestal. In his mind, he is already on one.
More worryingly, there are increasing signs that Emlyn Dole is rapidly falling into the role of sidekick. On his roller skates, as CBeebies Man prowls the county looking for a project to pour a few million quid into, is Deflecting Dole. CBeebies Man’s human shield, who protects his master with his super sarcasm power.
Carmarthenshire has long had a reputation for being a council in thrall to its Chief Executive. It is as though the political executive of the Council is an extension of its highest paid employee. The correct arrangement is the other way round, of course: the administration putting into action the political will of the Council.
The current political executive does several things well. Cadno does not agree with it in all things, but on several big issues it has hit the nail head on.
Housing, in particular, could be a lasting monument to this current administration. Despite that and other solid achievements, Cadno agrees that services should be brought back in-house and not remain notionally outsourced to arm’s length companies. Cadno’s only exception would be house building for pretty obvious reasons connected with local government finance and borrowing rules. He does not know why Deflecting Dole is so wedded to the idea of outsourcing in the teeth of his own party’s policies against it. Perhaps it’s because Labour in Llanelli is prepared to stand for its self-interest against its party’s national policies that Emlyn Dole wants to match its contrariness and inconsistency with his own.
What worries Cadno most of all about the Great Deflector is his point-blank refusal to deal with questions about the financial structure of the Great Swamp Thing at Delta Lakes.
Not least the fact that, as things stand, the whole shebang is the ultimate out-sourcing project, representing the construction of a private healthcare facility for the benefit of private investors who will be shielded from risk by the public purse. If the private sector of the Wellness and Life Science Village is commercially viable, it should not need a leg up from the public sector to work. If it needs public sector money to seed it and prop it up, it is not commercially viable. Not now. Not ever.
The Deflector is quite right to pour scorn on some of the outrage expressed by the opposition, especially by someone daft enough to reveal he’d prepared his follow-up questions in advance (Jesus wept!), however, he has to accept that there are some pretty big questions that remain unanswered about all things swampy. It is as though Cllr Dole is acting as a mouthpiece for the project and, perhaps, for the man who has backed the vanity project from the start.
Here’s the big ask, though: ‘Show me the money!’
There is supposed to be a huge amount of private money coming into the Wellness Swamp.
Where the hell is it?
It’s no use saying, negotiations are ongoing. It’s like Brexit. You’ve had years. Bloody Edwina Hart was still in Government when the whole thing started floating in the tide at Llanelli like a stray turd.
Where is the money? What guarantees or sureties does the Council have for its arrival and when will it get here?
The above questions do not undermine the potential for the project – however unlikely it is – to deliver on its promises. They stand apart as proper scrutiny of what, at times, appears a process made deliberately opaque to thwart the exercise of proper control by councillors of major decisions. It’s pathetic, readers.
Emlyn Dole, the Great Deflector, can roll his eyes like a bad Eisteddfod comedian all he wants. Straight questions deserve straight answers.
The truth, Cadno strongly suspects, is that there is no private money. At least, not yet. Moreover, Cadno is dubious about the origins of such money as might arrive and the sort of strings to which it might come attached.
If there is no clarity on the provenance and amount of private investment, those sceptical of the project are entitled to remain sceptical.
You have only to consider CeeBeeBees Man’s extraordinary track record on major capital projects to give enough cause for scepticism. Add that to the Maidstone misadventures of directors tied to the only firm that tendered for the project partner’s role. Tie that into an apparent ‘suck it and see’ approach to here, when and how much private money is actually devoted to being sunk into the swamp and there is more than enough reason to raise sensible questions.
There is another, potentially more sinister, explanation for the Great Deflector’s wish to avoid tricky questions.
Cadno has read enough superhero comics to know that it is entirely possible that CBeebies Man, far from being our Lycra-clad saviour, is a supervillain who has hypnotised the hapless Emlyn Dole into being his unwitting stooge. Inside, the real Emlyn is struggling to break out and tell the world the truth, but CBeebies Man’s just too powerful.
In many ways, that possibility is more attractive than what Cadno suspects the reality is.
Poor Emlyn is simply blinded by the light shining from CBeebies Man’s spoke-shave end.
* * *
In a separate article the Herald reports that Cllr Rob James, the Labour leader of the opposition has written to Emlyn Dole to ask whether the recent news concerning the suspensions at Swansea University will have an impact on the Wellness project at Delta Lakes given that the Vice Chancellor, and Prof Marc Clement are both closely involved and have influential roles within the City Deal. As of the paper going to press last Thursday, there'd been no response.
In my view they should have been suspended from these roles immediately. When Mark James went on 'gardening leave' during the criminal investigation in 2014 he was also removed from his various roles within Welsh Government, of which there were four.
As I've mentioned once or twice before, the powers that be should be taking a much closer look at Mark James himself, he is not to be trusted with a child's piggy bank, never mind £1.3bn.
Later post; The Wellness Village - the end?
Later post; The Wellness Village - the end?