Tuesday 29 January 2019

Wellness Village costs; spend, spend, spend!

Update 31st January;

I was surprised to discover that the firm of solicitors, engaged and instructed by the council for their own 'internal review', are Acuity Legal, exactly the same solicitors who represented, and continue to act for Mr James in his pursuit of money from me. Can't imagine they're going to upset one of their clients, can you?

Mr James has had legal bills in excess of £24,000 with this firm, let's just hope the council don't pay them by mistake, a 'mix-up' of invoices perhaps?....that wouldn't do would it? Lets hope the Wales Audit Office keep an eye on that particular trail of paperwork...

* * *

In case anyone was wondering how much public money has been spent so far on the 'Wellness Village', the luxury private spa development at the Delta Lake swamp, then we now have a few figures, well, what they're prepared to tell us about anyway.
The project is mired in scandal, from rigged tenders to allegations of personal enrichment. Five investigations are underway and no one will touch Mr James' 'legacy to the county' with a barge pole.

My Freedom of Information requests to the council have revealed that the total spend, up to the end of 2018 is an astonishing £2.2 million.

The council paid Arup a staggering £234,250 for reports for the planning application and paid itself £30,500 for the planning fees. The total costs associated with the planning application are around £340,000. That's without the costs associated with the farcical planning committee meeting earlier this month and the no doubt generous expenses for the man from Arup.

An earlier request (see 2017 blog post here) showed £750,000 on ground prep work and the latest FOI shows £481,239 was spent on design work for phase 1.
The council have spent £47,000, at least, on external legal advice.
A separate FOI, for general council expenditure on consultants turned up another £35k+ relating to the City Deal office, £3780 of that was for a Bath based PR consultant specialising in 'making words better'...

As you can see from both FOIs here (2017), and here (today's), some of these costs are shared, or hope to be shared, with the Welsh Government and other 'partners'.
All public cash.
The City Deal funding has yet to be committed and is all on hold due to the ongoing investigations. The flawed Business Case for the Wellness Village has not even been approved yet, unsurprisingly, and, due to the investigations surrounding the project, it's all on hold as well.
So far, not a brick has been laid and the pear-shaped planning approval is subject to Welsh Government call-in requests and a u-turn from NRW.

Given that next Monday the Exec Board will outline £9.3m in budget cuts, a rise in Council tax of 4.89%, council rents up by 2.4%,  job losses and a budget shortfall of £2.7m, it makes you wonder who has been dishing out the Wellness cash with such liberal abandon...and exactly whose pockets have been lined with silver...it's criminal, and out of control.
Are our councillors, and the Plaid led administration aware of this massive waste of money? Or have they all been dazzled and duped by the Emperor's New Clothes...?
Also on the agenda is £40m worth of new borrowing for the rapidly sinking Wellness Village, this figure is now likely to be a lot higher, if it goes ahead, perhaps over £200m. The council's debt is already £400m.
Just in case they do need to 'go it alone', God forbid, they've just engaged the services of an 'independent financial market consultant'. I bet they don't come cheap.

And what of the 'Accountable Officer', our soon to be retiring chief executive Mark James? As I've also said, (here and elsewhere) he needs to be investigated over all this, preferably by the police.
Without wishing to repeat myself he has been part of these dodgy deals from the start, he has his own undeclared private business interests and is an all round dishonest, manipulative individual. He's left a trail of taxpayer draining vanity projects from Boston to Llanelli and is not averse to siphoning off public money to boost the Mark James coffers.
He should be locked up, and, for goodness sake, someone hurry up and take the chequebook off him before he bankrupts Carmarthenshire.

Further recent FOIs include the Wellness Village Collaboration Agreement with Sterling's proposals and, while I'm here, an earlier unrelated request for credit card spending details.

Please search the blog for background and recent posts concerning the Wellness project and City Deal. And mentions in Private Eye...


Keanjo said...

This story is very similar to the proposed race track in Blaenau Gwent .
Grandiose scheme brought forward with promises of a huge private finance backing. Then public money poured into the development stage.Lots of glossy brochures and exciting videos produced before it became apparent that the private backing had faded away and the public bodies involved retreated with their tails between their legs. This sort of thing seems to have become a growth industry to fool gullible public bodies. Unfortunately it is the tax payer who bears the cost

Anonymous said...

Another glowing tribute to our little dictator (not). See Carmarthen Journal. Mair Stephens might just regret her words calling him Mr Carmarthshire as more stories are revealed about the damage this monster of a man has perpetrated on innocent victims whose only crime had been to expose the serious failings of this council. She should go along with Emlyn Dole and all the other sycophants who have been brainwashed. Let's have councillors who have pride and integrity in what they do and serve the public that voted for them.

Anonymous said...

The article is also in the Llanelli Star. Unison rightly so blames councillors for allowing this megalomaniac to have total control. This culture of turn a blind eye, it's nothing to do with me gov,don't rock the boat, ignoring all that is wrong, extends into the political arena and is compounded by ALL our politicians who on another level are equally as guilty as councillors as they too do nothing about the blatant misconduct issues taking place within this rotten council. One example is the fact that the Leader Cllr Dole ( Plaid) hasn't been removed with so much evidence of misconduct against him. Councillors one level one politicians on level two Ministers on level three = like a a Sicilian cartel.

caebrwyn said...

Anon 15:15
Re the Carmarthen Journal article, I notice that Unison were far less complimentary about Mr James' 'legacy'!

Another 'Wellness' partner, University of Wales Trinity St David have just announced proposed cuts of £6.5m.

Anonymous said...

The internal express City Deal review is being lead by the CEO of Pembrokeshire County Council, the Council that took 5 weeks to send a letter of complaint about the time taken(nearly 5 years) by the police to investigate the Pembroke Dock grants irregularities. (See http://oldgrumpy.co.uk/2018/4169/dead-letter/)

Anonymous said...

Without any approval for the Wellness business plan,and the swamp project on hold, what are they borrowing £40 million for, exactly?

Anonymous said...

Yes its all a bit worrying that all the Swansea City deal partners are all looking to cut their budgets and are shedding staff

The City deal always mentions the jobs to be created

Both statements just don't seem to be consistent

Anonymous said...

As they say, you couldn't make it up. Acuity Legal are instructed to carry out the review. Is this another case of an independent review of this Council? One has to wonder what the Council would say if they were to be accused of corruption etc. and they were to demand who should carry out the investigation! Conflict of interest or what? When are the people of Carmarthen going to have a Council that is truly "transparent and democratic"?

Anonymous said...

Transparent and democratic? My foot! more like (very) opaque and dictatorial!
Democracy? I doubt if Dole could even spell it - leave alone know what it means!

Anonymous said...

Leader Dole (plaid) is a disgrace. Remember when he not only stated he was going to make this council the most open, transparent and democratic council in Wales,but was appalled at Mark James use of public money to sue Jacqui and agreed it was unlawful! What happened? Oh yes - his barns that should never have been given permissions. So blatant. How does he sleep at night? Let's hope he stands down when his master goes?

Anonymous said...

Modern day Christianity ?

Anonymous said...

So much for practice what you preach.

Anonymous said...

Go down the newsagents for today's copy of the Western Mail.

It would seem that Messrs Clement, James and co are embroiled in what looks like another dodgy project, this time in Kuwait.

I shall leave it to you to report the details.

Anonymous said...

no need to, it's now online