Friday 21 December 2018

Private Eye (again), contradictions, conflicts, and the Wellness scandal

Yet another appearance in Private Eye for chief executive Mark James, once again doing his bit to establish Carmarthenshire County Council's reputation as a very Rotten Borough....He also featured in the last edition, on a different issue, here.

This post follows on from posts written earlier this month including; The Wellness Village - The end? and Full Council - Wellness Village, and the Emperor's New Clothes and this week's Carmarthenshire Herald features a detailed article about these recent events as the Wellness dream sinks slowly and painfully into the Delta Lakes swamp.

I mentioned Mr James' misleading statement to full council in my previous post and as the terms of the Collaboration Agreement between the council, Swansea University and Sterling became known (I have now read it in full). The word 'misleading' became an understatement as it appeared that the terms and conditions to dissolve the Agreement had not been met. Despite the Herald asking the council for an explanation, they have not responded.

As I have also said, Mr James, in his address to council on the 12th December, failed to mention the fractious meeting with Swansea University he'd attended, along with sidekick Emlyn, on the 10th December.
In fact, he knew full well that, despite his efforts to, erm, persuade the Uni to carry on, they were having none of it. To have inferred to full council that the Uni were still involved in any way was quite simply a lie.

Even more remarkable was Mr James statement that the Wales Audit Office had been 'invited', in some sort of informal arrangement, to provide 'reassurance' that all was well.

The Herald asked the Wales Audit Office to confirm the date that either the council or the City Deal Board contacted the WAO to seek this assurance, and the date that the WAO contacted the council with regards to any checks it proposed to carry out.

The WAO sent the following reply;

"We are not yet aware of having received any correspondence relating to this matter from Carmarthenshire County Council.

"However, I can confirm that as part of our audit of the Council, the Auditor General has decided to undertake a review of the decision making relating to the Wellness Village project. The terms of reference for this review will be issued to the Council in the New Year."

The council, however, are sticking to their story.
Whatever the case, Mr James' version of the WAO involvement was profoundly and deliberately misleading. Quite clearly the Auditor General is not only investigating the council's decision making related to the Wellness Village, but he has not even issued the terms of reference yet, and as far as he is concerned, there has been no 'invitation'.

Further mysterious contradictions have also emerged over the statement given by the leader of Neath Port Talbot, Cllr Rob Jones, to a full meeting of his council. I wrote about this in my previous post.

The statement, which can be read in full here is refreshingly realistic, unlike the lies and spin peddled by Mark James and Emlyn Dole, and states that "The Joint Committee [of the City Deal Project] resolved to withdraw – at least temporarily - the earlier approval for the Delta Lakes project"
Emlyn Dole disagrees, claiming they merely agreed he would come back to them with 'reassurance' and has demanded that he correct his statement.

What Emlyn doesn't seem to realise yet is that no one wants to touch this vanity project with a barge pole. I don't blame them either.

In breaking news, well, as I'm writing this post, WalesOnline reports on some of the details of the suspensions at Swansea University which are now beginning to leak out.

It seems that a £2.5m Welsh Government grant to Swansea Uni was going to be passed on to a 'not-for-profit private company, Respiratory Innovation Wales Ltd (RIW Ltd).

The company, and the management of the grant are now part of the University's investigation. Although Swansea Uni confirms, in a statement, that the company was set up to receive the grant, they say they are no longer involved in the Respiratory Innovation project.
The grant was to part fund a centre for RIW Ltd at the Delta Lakes swamp.

Professor Marc Clement was a director of the company, which had only been set up in September, until he resigned on December 3rd, a week after his suspension was announced by the university. He has denied any wrongdoing.
One of the other suspensions is reported to be a senior project manager for the Wellness Village 'team' managed by the council.

After the Uni raised concerns earlier this year, the Welsh Government agreed not to pay the grant.

Another director of RIW Ltd, appointed on September 19th is Kevin Smith, who had resigned a week earlier as a director of Sterling Health Security Holdings, the company (which won a bidding war of one) now ditched as development partners for the Wellness Village.
Kevin Smith is also a director of another Dickmann enterprise, Heart2Heart Telemedicine Ltd which, according to documents enclosed with the Collaboration Agreement was set to deliver the digital needs of the Wellness village. In fact, Sterling intended to set up even more sister companies once its foot was in the door.

As I have said, Marc Clement had previously been a director of Kent Neurosciences, resigning shortly before they entered the 'exclusivity agreement' with Mark James and Co. Kent Neurosciences was the now dissolved forerunner to Sterling Health, featuring the Dickmann clan, Clement, Kevin Smith, and Meryl Gravell. The latter being the former leader, and regeneration portfolio holder at Carms council, otherwise known as Mark James' cash-cow and voting proxy.

Wales Online also confirms that the Auditor General for Wales, Adrian Crompton is to hold his own investigation into Carmarthenshire Council’s decision making process into the project, as reported by the Herald above.

As some of us have been mentioning for a few years now, the complex web of personal directorships, private companies, and public money have given rise, at best, to potential conflicts of interest and at worst, the possible siphoning off of public cash. Today's news is, therefore, not surprising.
The tangled web remains difficult to unravel and I suspect that the details emerging from Swansea are the tip of a murky iceberg.

With assorted investigations underway, and the nebulous Wellness Dream on hold, this blog is particularly interested in the investigation at the council by the Wales Audit Office.

To even suggest that Mark James, with his close association with Marc Clement, Meryl Gravell and the Sterling gang, was unaware of this tangled and conflicting web is inconceivable. And let's not forget that Mr James has his own private property and business interests which he chose not to declare to his employers.

To form a collaboration agreement with a company with no proven track record and liabilities of £137k was astonishing, let alone having appointed the same company, under another name, two years previously. To the casual observer, this Agreement, led by the council, appeared to be the start of an arrangement to benefit a handful of investors through untraceable and unaccountable shell companies.

Even if we discount, for a moment, Mark James' track record in dishonesty and flagrant misuse of public money, his denials, and evasiveness over the last couple of weeks says a great deal. We also know he is skilled operator in the art of misleading councillors, very prevalent at the moment, and also a vindictive bully when his authority is challenged. Neither does he have any qualms about breaching a written undertaking to his employers. The breakdown in trust started years ago.
Whilst there is division at the University over culpability and blame, there is no such ambiguity at County Hall.

We can only hope that the WAO make this a very thorough investigation. When it comes to decision making and governance this officer-led council has been found wanting many times before, the toxic culture remains.

And they should also remember that they themselves found that Mr James had deliberately avoided paying tax, and unlawfully pocketed public cash. That particular issue still continues with secretive nonsense and the protection of the chief executive a top priority.

As I have said before the police should act urgently and knock on his door. Unless the WAO send in a team of senior investigators, they will, I fear, be left in the waiting room thumbing through heavily redacted copies of Private Eye, listening to the muffled sound of the shredding machine in overdrive. 


Anonymous said...

When Labour controlled Carmarthen County Council, The Present leader (E. Dole Plaid) was very vociferous in opposition about many aspects of the way the Council was being run. Plaid is now the controlling party in The Council. We have the very laudable pledge from the present Leader who said that he aimed to have "the most democratic and transparent Council in the Country". What happened? Was there an Epiphany moment for the Rev. Dole? " The light shineth in the darkness......." It would seem that E.Dole needs a change of prescription for his glasses, as they are obviously limiting his vision to all the things that are wrong with this CEO led Council.

Anonymous said...

"Full openness and transparency" was what the Rev Dole promised when he became the Plaid Leader of this rotten council. This is the first time Plaid has been in control and what a legacy this dishonest, weak and malable Rev Dole is going to leave behind for the Plaid party. Things were going to change under Plaid - they have, for the worse! It is their first time in power and it will be their last thanks to the accredited Minister and Leader of Plaid, Cllr Dole. Time the party Plaid chose another Leader. The public have long memories.

Anonymous said...

CCC? Carmarthenshire crap council!

Teifion said...

Mr Emlyn Dole needs to grow a backbone and do what he was elected to do and is paid for doing rather than in my opinion doing an impression of a lamp post !

Blodwen said...

Not just Cllr Dole - there were many other Plaid members who were adamant that change was needed and vehement in their assertions that the council must not be officer-led; that MJ should be instructed to do what his employers, the Council, told him. Somehow, now they are in "power", this has been conveniently forgotten and they are supine, content to agree meekly to everything without question or argument so that they can just collect their money every month. Jacqui, I salute you for your tenacity and hard work in fighting for the truth.

Redhead said...

Watch your back Jaquie. There are many enemies of the truth in your part of the world it seems who are no doubt schemimg in their bunkers.

Anonymous said...

Is there any truth in the rumour that, following the appointment of Sterling Health as their preferred partner, Mssrs James and Dole played a key role on the behalf of the UK government in the awarding of the £14m contract to the no-deal ferry company with no ships and no trading history?

caebrwyn said...

Very good post from former county councillor Sian Caiach on how this council is run, and how it should have been placed in special measures long ago.

Carmarthenshire County Council- The Honey Trap. The threats, the lies

Anonymous said...

In her post Sian Caiach reminds us of the very dodgy circumstances surrounding the ‘2 barns’ application which went before the planning committee on three separate occasions. Each time there was a robust recommendation for refusal which, each time, the councillors decided to ignore. A week before it was considered the second time a motion was put forward to full council by cllr Lenny that TAN 6 was not fit for purpose. It included the following: “It is also perverse to treat the conversion of a farm building into a home or business as a new build in the countryside.”

The motion was passed unanimously. Cllr Dole’s comment to the Llanelli Star was “If you build on the existing foundations of an old building it shouldn’t be seen as a new build.” Six days later the planning committee with this vote fresh in their minds again approved the Dole application against officer’s recommendation.

Some eleven months later, after failing to comply with the conditions of that approval, he had his third bite of the cherry and again gained a retrospective approval from his fellow councillors (again contrary to officers’ recommendation) for a complete rebuild on new foundations.

Anonymous said...

Re Anonymous 09:18 – it seems a very convenient coincidence for Cllr. Lenny to submit his motion when the Dole application was already before the planning committee and had been deferred for a site visit. After the application was approved I remember someone suggesting the possibility that, in a few years time, the Doles would put in another application for change of use to a domestic dwelling claiming that the building hadn’t been a success as a hairdressing salon and holiday let.

Planning permission for S/30698 was granted on 05/11/2015 with 10 conditions some of which required the “written approval of the Local Planning Authority” others which had to be implemented “Prior to beneficial use of the Building” or within “six months of the date of this permission”. Viewing an aerial image of the site dated 17/06/2017 it would appear that some of those conditions had not then been met - is that still the situation?

caebrwyn said...

Emlyn Dole's planning was dodgy to say the least, and he knows it. It was, in fact, outrageous. Mark James ensured that he escaped censure in return for Emlyn's u-turn over the unlawful libel indemnity. Instead of reporting Emlyn to the Ombudsman, the vindictive Mr James decided to report Sian Caiach instead, for her support of me.
Sidekick Emlyn returned the favour by doing his bit to ensure that Mark James continues to escape, amongst other things, the more serious censure of a criminal investigation under Sections 2 and 4 of the Fraud Act 2006.

On the subject of planning, the Wellness Swamp planning application is due to be driven through the planning committee next Thursday (10th Jan).
The public and private 'partners' have either jumped ship or been booted out. The project, and the City Deal itself are under national investigation and the council itself are being investigated by the Wales Audit Office for their decision making over the project.

The Welsh Government should put this on stop immediately and call it in before even more £millions are wasted and/or siphoned off. It's a scandal, and Mark James is squarely in the frame.

Wavell said...

If this "Wellness" Village goes through then all Councillors should be investigated.
What benefit is this project to the residents of Carmarthenshire ?
It is simply a fat cat holiday home with financial perks.

Absolutely ridiculous, especially when the Council claim to be short of cash.
Get rid of your time wasting managers first .

Can any Plaid Councillor join the comment and support the great plan ? I don't think so.

Anonymous said...

These are criminal matters being totally ignored by members and the Welsh Government. It is a huge scandal just waiting to explode with the Plaid party doing nothing about this little dictator or their own Emlyn Dole who has brought their party into disrepute. This is the first time they have been in power and it will most certainly be the last as they have now shown how weak and unprincipled they actually are.

Anonymous said...

Re. the planning application next Thursday –

It has always been the case that proposals for a council’s own development have be treated with the same transparency and impartiality as those of private developers. But, after a quick read through the officer’s report, I was struck how overtly bias it was.

You could quite easily conclude that it was written by an estate agent and not a supposedly impartial planning officer. It includes such juicy descriptions as “an attractive new plaza covered by a glazed canopy…The buildings will be detailed to provide an attractive living environment…high quality and textured paving at key locations…an attractive urban edge to the waterside environment”

It concludes with a grovelling “Members of the Planning Committee are respectfully asked to resolve to approve the application and grant the Head of Planning plenary powers to release the planning permission subject to Natural Resources Wales signing off the Appropriate Assessment.”

It should therefore be called in by the Welsh government and be independently and impartially determined by an appointed professional planning inspector.

Anonymous said...

With the Leader of the council being Plaids Emlyn Dole whose conduct is of a criminal nature and bringing Plaid into disrepute, one has to question why the Leader of Plaid Cymru political party Adam Price is failing to suspend him? Are Plaid Cymru a party who will protect their own no matter how blatant and appalling the conduct of one their members is proven to be?

Blodwen said...

Plaid have definitely lost my vote in any future election. How anyone could vote for this shower after the way they have behaved is beyond me.