Friday, 8 February 2019

Mark of Arabia


Well, the plot thickens this morning with WalesOnline reporting another connection with the Swansea Uni suspensions and Carmarthenshire's own Mark James. Not only are the dodgy dealings over the Wellness scandal simmering under various investigations but a murky little exercise to expand into Kuwait is beginning to reveal itself. 

The Kuwait venture, called Project Shifaa, for a £600m private medical university and private hospital is now on hold whilst the Swansea investigation looks at allegations that suspended academics Marc Clement and Richard Davies, who led, and are on the Board of trustees for the project, never declared the necessary interests or gained the appropriate approvals from the University. Clement was lined-up to be vice chancellor of this new University, despite a well-publicised controversial background which includes questionable overseas college degrees.

Also named as a trustee on the Board is the equally controversial Mark James. With Clement and Davies now talking through their lawyers, maybe it's only a matter of time before Mr James follows suit. Perhaps he'll use his own solicitors, Acuity Legal, the very same firm which have carried out the internal review of the council's procedures over the wellness debacle...Anyway, let's hope the Wales Audit Office step lively and take a proper look.

However, as he is yet to be suspended Mr James, in cornered-rat mode, provided a statement to Wales Online saying it was all a wonderful idea and that he had cleared his appointment as a trustee with 'the Council' (ie himself) so there was no conflict of interest.

It's difficult to know where to start with this. Mr James' concept of conflicts of interest are decidedly different to anyone else's. He decided he didn't have to declare his own private business empire in Cardiff, where he runs a property management company, he's director of four companies, owns leaseholds on several flats and is also a registered landlord.

Nor did he declare a whiff of interest when being personally bankrolled for his illegal libel indemnity.

Using the same firm of solicitors for his private interests, and those of the council, is yet another curious decision... and Monitoring Officer Linda Rees Jones, who owes her position to Mark James, wouldn't know a conflict of interest if she tripped over it.

The only registered interest he has made, as of the 5th February 2019, is as a director of UWTSD.
Of course, it would be highly improper for Mr James to pursue his undeclared business interests, including the 'Kuwait connection', during his highly paid working hours....

His involvement, from day one, with Clement, Davies, Sterling and co over the Wellness Village, covered extensively by this blog, should be enough to warrant his immediate suspension, that's without today's news. His ridiculous appointment as the City Deal 'Accountable Officer' should have been terminated well before Christmas, the joke's over, and so is he.

As for the Wellness fiasco, he is showing all the signs of desperation and, with the rats having already deserted this particular sinking ship, appears to be prepared for the council to 'go it alone'. As this week's Carmarthenshire Herald reports, 'Members of Carmarthenshire County Council will be waiting with bated breath for the departing CEO's plans to lumber them and their successors with potentially massive future debt with the prospect of an uncertain return.'

By then, he'd be long retired, and sunning himself in Kuwait I suppose.


The Herald also reports that both Pembrokeshire and Neath Port Talbot Council are getting cold feet over a City Deal rocked by scandal, and the unknown and potentially crippling commitment of scarce public cash. Not so Mr James of course who has already ploughed £2m of your money into his own dodgy vanity project.

At the City Deal Scrutiny meeting last week Mr James claimed that he ended the 'Collaboration Agreement' (with Sterling and Swansea Uni) "to protect the Council's reputation", a remarkable statement from someone who has ensured that the council has graced the columns of Private Eye's Rotten Boroughs on more times than we'd care to mention, and earned the accolade of Shit of the Year 2016.

Worse still, that's not what he told Carmarthenshire councillors. He told them that the Agreement (barely six months old and due to last three years), had "run its course". He has also said that the Agreement was 'not legally binding' when its intention was clearly to create a legally binding partnership, and was drawn up, no doubt at considerable cost, by an external legal firm. It's even got wax seals for goodness sake.
Perhaps if he tried telling the truth once in a while he wouldn't get into such a tangle.

The fact that he's embroiled in another potential scandal is no surprise really. As the former police commissioner once said, 'Carmarthenshire County 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."
Never has truer words been said, and for 'it', read Mark James.

Mr James is implicated by design and association, and with allegations surfacing on a weekly basis, let alone his personal and lengthy rap sheet as council chief executive, he should be removed from his post immediately, preferably in the back of a police car, to ensure that the various investigations can function properly, and without his arrogant and malign interference.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

They say that there are 2 sides to every story.Ron Cant (Press officer @ Carmarthen Council) writing in this month's edition of The Carmarthenshire Times, views M.V.James in a totally different light. In fact, following his glowing praises, it could be quite possible that "beatification "might well be on the horizon. How well that would be welcomed in the Middle East remains to be seen.

Anonymous said...

I have just noticed that the ‘Collaboration Agreement’ with its wax seals supplied after your FOI request is missing some pages. Missing pages 66 and 67 may just be an error but I doubt that is the case with pages 70 to 79 which is most likely to include the ‘Dispute resolution procedure schedule 4’, referred to at 16.7 in the agreement – I wonder why these have been omitted.

caebrwyn said...

Anon 15:36
Thank you for your observations, and you're quite right. Given that they have not included visibly redacted information, I will ask why these pages are missing.

Sian Caiach said...

So, Wales is unable to provide enough home grown doctors for Wales due to not enough medical school places, but Swansea University is persuaded to "help out" Kuwaiti students to qualify as UK doctors? They get a nice trip to ? Swansea's Postgraduate medical school to help them along? Why not just expand the places for local students. Were these Kuwaiti students planned to be coming just to get a UK medical degree? Were Swansea to sell medical degrees to kuwaiti students while not enough medical school places are available in Wales for our own young people and hospitals can't get enough doctors?. It beggars belief!! No surprise that the usual suspects are all in the scheme!

Anonymous said...

According to a report in today’s Western Mail, Acuity Legal’s review has concluded that “no council funds had been released” regarding the Wellness Village. This is clearly incorrect given the evidence you have gathered under various FOIs on the expenditure to date, which is easily verifiable.

One can only assume this is an oversight from the paper and you may wish to send the FOI documents directly to the journalist involved so that this can be corrected and its readers can know the real truth about what is going on at Delta Lakes martin.shipton@walesonline.co.uk

Anonymous said...

Maybe Acuity Legal have been mislead as they omit to mention the 'public funds' which have been released according to FOI requests but only mention 'council funds' which according to them have not been. How can we have spending on one hand as divulged under FOI but not on the other, according to Mark James's own firm of solicitors? Does 'public funding' and 'council funding' come under the same umbrella? Either way, questions should be raised as to Acuity Legal's own conflicts of interest!

Anonymous said...

Questions should also be asked regarding Plaids capabilities as Councillors.
I voted Plaid, obviously a big mistake.
Never again.
Completely unfit for purpose, top to bottom. No regard whatsoever for their constituents.
They certainly deserve a vote of no confidence as far as I am concerned.

Anonymous said...

Don't these Councillors realise that the CEO wouldn't show them any loyalty whatsoever and dump them right in it if roles were reversed? Also don't they realise come June he will be gone and they will be left to pick up the pieces. Weak and spineless comes to mind!

caebrwyn said...

I'm not sure which is the most laughable element of this Acuity Legal report, the fact that Mr James' own solicitors did it or that it was 'leaked' to the Western Mail.

And who did this 'leaking' I wonder, the Plaid leadership? Highly unlikely without the blessing and direct assistance of Mr James. No one else has seen it.
And what was the point of this little PR exercise? Other than to protect Mark James' back, it was to persuade the Wales Audit Office, or anyone else who might want to take a closer look at his dodgy dealings, to back off? Nothing to see here...move along.

What it may have cost is anyone's guess. I do know that Acuity Legal charged £22,500 for a straightforward Order for Sale hearing and £2500 for a one hour hearing to vary instalments. Maybe Mr James got mates' rates this time, or a discount on his legal bills.
To be honest, anything is possible.
Outrageous.

Redhead said...

I don't know what shocks me most - how men like Mark James can be allowed to get away with such things - or that the co-conspirators are high officials in the Welsh government, other Carmarthen officers and Carmarthen councillors. Public good? Public evil, more like.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree. I thought the minute they came to power MJ would be on his way. Instead the relationship between PC and MJ is now stronger than that when MG was in power. It begs the question what power doer MJ have over this council?!

Tessa said...

"Ron Cant ( - or "Wrong 'Can't' " as I like to think of him - former? Press officer @ Carmarthen Council) writing in this month's edition of The Carmarthenshire Times - presumable paid by MJ CBE? Not much point asking him as he isn't truthful - not in my experience anyway, when he told me he worked for the BBC so that I allowed him to film me."



Anonymous said...

Driving down the M4 this morning I thought I saw two Camels heading towards Carmarthen.
But it could have just been a mirage.

Anonymous said...



Local authorities are bound by statute. Their functions are set out in numerous Acts of Parliament and many of these functions have associated legal duties.
Each Council is named from the area its serves
Its stretching the imagination that Carmarthenshire would have any legal obligation to Kuwait
The entire management structure needs reviewing and a clear out
Let start with the new CEO and a new management team

Anonymous said...

Cllr Rob James has pointed out that Mr Mark Jame's "permission" to get involved in the Kuwait Scheme was approved by the Council but no record has been produced to show by whom or in what meeting. Presumably the upcoming vote of no confidence in Emlyn Dole will define the reasons for this strange decision. Or maybe Emlyn doesn't know? Why tell the leader of Council when in truth he is just a puppet and has no control over anything?

Anonymous said...


Lets have a vote of no confidence in the whole of the management team - get rid of the whole lot