Tuesday 12 February 2019

The Wellness Scandal; No Confidence call against Emlyn Dole - updated

Update 13:42 - Police

WalesOnline have confirmed that the allegations being investigated by Swansea Uni, relating to the Wellness scandal, have now been referred as criminal complaints, to the police.

This is not before time; it must be thorough, timely, and must include Mark James, who, as I have detailed on this blog, is in it up to his neck.

Interestingly, it's not just South Wales Police, which covers Swansea, who are investigating, but also Dyfed Powys, which covers Carmarthenshire...

* * *

Labour opposition leader Cllr Rob James has announced his intention of tabling a Motion of No Confidence in Plaid council leader Emlyn Dole and has written to Cllr Dole outlining his reasons for doing so.

The letter is self-explanatory;

"Dear Cllr Dole, 
I am writing to you concerning the Swansea Bay City Deal and the proposed Llanelli Life Sciences and Well-Being Village. 
As you are aware, since becoming Leader of the Opposition in May 2018, I have sought to highlight my concerns about your administration’s handling of the £1.3 billion city deal and our worry that the on-going maladministration posed a significant risk to the future prosperity of the region. It should be noted that since making my concerns public in November, we have witnessed the suspension of four key members of staff from Swansea University – including its Vice Chancellor, Carmarthenshire Council unilaterally cancelling its agreement with Sterling Health and the launching of four reviews into the city deal. 
Local businesses and residents have since raised concerns that they fear your actions have damaged the reputation of this region, and the city deal rests on a knife edge.
As a responsible Opposition, we have sought to hold your administration to account in the attempt to improve decision-making, rather than oppose at every avenue. Carmarthenshire Council is unique in this region, in that it actively prevents backbench and opposition Councillors receiving information relating to the operation of Council. In Swansea, Neath Port Talbot and Pembrokeshire Councils, colleagues inform me that they are provided with copies of what we refer to as ‘exempt item reports’. This access to information allows Councillors from all parties to scrutinise the decision-making of the relevant authority. Despite raising concerns with the Monitoring Officer and with yourself, 64 Councillors are still in a position where we are being blocked from scrutinising your decision-making. 
Since May, under your Leadership, the Executive Board has used powers under the 1972 Act to exclude the public and backbench members from two-thirds of all of your meetings to discuss exempt items, including a report on the provision of the proposed Llanelli Well-Being Village, the ‘Yr Egin’ Business Case and that of the Well-Being Village. This action appears to illustrate a fundamental disdain for scrutiny, a strategy that prevents the all elected representatives being informed, and a premeditated effort to prevent the opposition holding you and the administration you lead to account. 
In an attempt to fulfil our scrutiny role and ensure that the proposed investment was sound, I took the unprecedented decision to voluntarily commit myself, as Leader of the Opposition, to making no public comment on the city deal in exchange for you guaranteeing access to all documents connected with the Life Sciences and Well-Being Village. This is the first time this has ever happened in Carmarthenshire Council; this clearly demonstrates our desire to see the city deal succeed. 
Last week, we took the difficult decision to withdraw from this agreement after an analysis of the information raised further questions surrounding the independence of the internal review and the promises made to us on the full publication of the internal review to the public was not forthcoming. We believe it is regrettable that this internal review has now been ‘leaked’ to the Western Mail before the other 62 Councillors of our Authority were able to read its content. 
We believe it is also highly regrettable Carmarthenshire Council, in an attempt to reassure the public on the procurement process surrounding Sterling Health, chose to use Acuity Legal to conduct its internal review. 
Members of the public will be aware that this firm was used by the Chief Executive to take legal action against Carmarthenshire blogger, Jacqui Thompson. I am also aware several of the partners of Acuity Legal have been active supporters of the city deal for some time. Jonathan Green, Acuity Legal’s real estate partner, has appeared on a panel with Pembrokeshire Council’s Steven Jones promoting the City Deal, with other partners, such as Clare Tregoning and Hugh Hitchcock, making public remarks of support for the city deal. 
I am of the firm view that Acuity Legal is not sufficiently independent in this case, and therefore was in no position to investigate the actions of officers and that of your administration. Instead, this action has further eroded public confidence in this Authority and all those connected to the city deal. 
It also appears from recent press reports, that the Chief Executive has also been involved with a £600m joint venture to create a private hospital and medical school in Kuwait. In a statement to the media, the Chief Executive is quoted as saying his involvement is in connection with the Swansea Bay City Deal and has been authorised by Council. It alleged this scheme forms part of the investigation into the senior academics suspended at Swansea University. To my knowledge, his involvement has not been sanctioned by Full Council, nor have I been able to identify the meeting in which the Executive Board authorised the Chief Executive to undertake this role on behalf of the Authority. As a result, I have sought guidance from the Monitoring Officer to identify who authorised this action and the legal basis for the decision-making. 
Due to the aforementioned restrictions on opposition members accessing information in connection to the operation of this authority, the Joint Working Agreement stating that it is the responsibility of local authorities to scrutinise their own local projects relating to the Swansea Bay City Deal, and on-going questions into the conduct of officers, I am writing to inform you that we have lost all confidence in your ability to deliver on the promises of the city deal. 
We can not sit idly by as you put this once in a generation opportunity, a £1.3 billion investment in the region with enormous potential to deliver jobs and prosperity to the thousands of local residents, at risk. Therefore, in the coming days we will seek to table a vote of no confidence in you as Leader of Carmarthenshire Council.
The people of Carmarthenshire deserve much better than this"
* * *

Emlyn Dole, rather than address the issues within the letter, has, unsurprisingly, accused Cllr James of  obstructing the Wellness Dream and the City Deal for political gain.
The reality is that Cllr James has highlighted the unfolding scandal which relates directly to the chief executive, the ongoing secretive culture, the defensiveness towards scrutiny, and the bias and incompetence of the Monitoring Officer and her internal legal squad.

As for the Acuity Legal report, I'm not sure which is the most laughable element, the fact that Mr James' own solicitors did it or that it was 'leaked' to the Western Mail. Who was responsible for the 'leak' of this little PR exercise is interesting, given that only a handful had seen it. But you can bet that it wouldn't have happened without the blessing and direct assistance of the chief executive.

And what was the point of this report? 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.

The problem is that Emlyn 'two barns' Dole can't address any of the issues, he has consistently shown himself to be under the direct control of a dishonest, manipulative and vindictive chief executive. He has done what he was told to do and he has said what he was told to say. For that alone, aside from his complicity, he deserves to lose a vote of No Confidence, and the chief executive deserves to be frogmarched out of County Hall and locked up out of harm's way.

Maybe Cllr Dole will now realise that Mark James has no qualms whatsoever of hanging him out to dry.

See numerous previous posts, including Mark of Arabia


Tessa said...

The complete lack of due diligence and objectivity makes this whole farce read like an examination paper for a student auditor - at the most basic level.
"Here's a scenario for you to consider. Highlight the weaknesses in the management structure and process for a total of 20 marks (1 mark per weakness). Draft a report to the ultimate stakeholders to summarise your misgivings". It's such a balls-up that there would be no need to consider there would be NO weaknesses or misgivings! And also there must be 20 in there.
If it wasn't so awful and so massively wasteful of public funds that are so desperately needed elsewhere, it would be hilarious. In fact there has to be a sitcom in the making? There's more than enough material!

Mrs Angry said...

What an extraordinary situation. I'm glad to see the opposition taking a stand, but it does seem rather late in the day.

In regard to the withholding of exempt items from the opposition - how long has this been going on, and has the opposition ever voted on matters on which such reports have been withheld from them? If so, why?

In any case, any decisions take under such circumstances would surely be subject to legal challenge, as members would not have been properly informed, if voting, and consultation on major proposals could have been potentially wrongly limited. One would hope opposition members would as a group have taken advice on this.

Anonymous said...

This could be hugely embarrassing for Plaid. They should have bitten the bullet long ago and rid themselves of Emlyn Dole who has been Mark James's personal protector along with Legal Linda blocking all legitimate avenues of communications in order to cover up some very serious issues which are in dire need of addressing. It is time for Mark James to be suspended along with Legal Linda, with Cllr Dole either facing the same fate or resign. It is a disgrace it has taken this long for the tables to turn.

Anonymous said...

How the hell do they get away with it? Well done Cllr Rob James for his efforts to get to the truth.

Anonymous said...

When are the Councillors at Carmarthen County Council going to show some moral backbone and combine together to rid this Council of this cancer that has spread untreated for far too long? The Welsh Government and The WLGA must search their consciences and act NOW to bring this Council to account. The people of Carmarthen deserve nothing less.

Anonymous said...

Emlyn Dole resigning will not solve any problems.
He needs to face the music so that any future Council leaders will understand the consequences.
I can only hope that any voting on Mr.Dole's capabilities will be honest and not Plaid/Indi v Labour. The best way would be to have a secret ballot so that ED or MVJ d0 not know who his un-followers are.

Anonymous said...

This could be the end of the City deal - the Government will pull the funding

As Carmarthenshire took on the responsibility of running it its MJ / Linda Law and the regeneration unit that will be to blame in making this region even more deprived and with the loss of all those promised jobs

Who's going to trust these organisations with any new initiative unless there is a complete clear out of the management structure

Anonymous said...

Does this surprise anyone, what did the people of Carmarthenshire think !!! Mark James and his merry followers Meryl Gravelle, Emlyn Dole, Linda Law will bow to his every whim. The waste in administration, where the funding should be spent on service. The current working relationship with the Hywel Dda is so poor its laughable - but what is done about it - nothing !!! why !!!! because not one councillor will pop his/her head above the bar and make a stance. People are currently being held captive in hospital beds waiting to be discharged, why!!! no social works or lack of decisions from social workers, easy to use the excuse of no residential beds, where there are plenty but good old Mark wastes money on nonsense, imagine how many people that money would have supported rather wasted on the MORFA Wellness Centre - everybody who is a true Llanelli resident nows that that area is wasteland and contaminated, beggars belief

Anonymous said...

Swansea city deal is run by the regeneration unit of Carmarthenshire and headed up by MJ
All progress reports and meetings are held in Carmarthen and events organised by the regeneration team
With suspensions, retirements, reviews, police investigations, lack of project progress etc this unit needs to be looked at or the whole Swansea city deal will fold

Patricia B said...

The biggest problem we all have and that includes officers and members alike, is that policies and procedures are treated with utter contempt by this CEO who believes he is above all that nonsense. When procedures are not followed you have an authority out of control. Corruption flourishes, causes extreme damage in some cases, and denies the rights of people to have valid issues resolved. Legal Linda and Cllr Dole to their shame do as they are told, ignore statutory duties, Codes of Conduct, the seven Nolan Principles and procedures that get in the way of ethics morals and all that is 'right'. Members are threatened and ostracised if they dare to question. It is shocking!

It is so refreshing to hear the opposition actually making a stand and challenging the Leader, but is now being vilified, as one would expect from these three, as he is challenging the status quo and asking pertinent questions - questions that Cllr Dole himself should be asking of the CEO. It is laughable that Cllr Dole is trying to suggest Rob James is not credible. 'Pot and kettle'. There are so many of us who have been vilified for challenging this culture of secrecy that we could form a club!

"Policies and procedures are an essential component of any organization. Policies are important because they address pertinent issues, such as what constitutes acceptable behaviour by employees. ... Utilizing both policies and procedures during decision-making ensures that employers are consistent in their decisions".

I hope this investigation opens a 'pandoras's box and delves much deeper into how this council has been run over the past 17 years.

Anonymous said...

Jonathan Geen (not Green) of Acuity was also heavily involved in the RIFW (Regional Investment Fund Wales) scandal a few years back, which saw Welsh Government land worth £100 million+ flogged off to "Sir" Stan Thomas for £20 million, without being put out to tender. Geen was acting for RIFW/Welsh Governent AND the purchaser are the same time, until this conflict of interest was rumbled and he was obliged to resign from RIFW.

Anonymous said...

I hope Labour opposition leader Cllr Rob James dates his motion. See your blog, 2nd of October 2012.

caebrwyn said...

The No Confidence motion is not on the agenda for next week's (20th Feb) full council agenda, which is considering the budget. I understand it will be submitted for the next meeting.
The agenda does feature an item to advertise for the next chief executive, it will also be an opportunity to scale back the pay grade for the next one.

Any further developments will be reported on this blog.

Anonymous said...

Watched Plaid's political broadcast last night with Adam Price saying Wales had been let down in the past from poor leadership and has not attaining its potential

Something for the "leader" to think about with the no confidence vote looming in Carmarthenhsire

Swansea City deal is an opportunity but to date it has been a shambles

Anonymous said...

Adam Price is good at criticising others but does nothing himself.

Anonymous said...

Do Adam Price and Plaid support Dole’s dodgy foray into private healthcare at the wellness swamp or is it a case of ‘do as we say, not as we do’?

Anonymous said...

Good piece in Llanelli Herald this week plus Cadno! Just who are the councillors Mark James is supposed to have informed about his interests in the desert? As no-one seems to know it seems to be the one and only Reverend Dole. If this is correct Cllr Dole's days are numbered.

Part of Members Code of Conduct:

3. Integrity and Propriety....... Members must not put themselves in a position where their integrity is called into question by any financial or other obligation to individuals or organisations that might seek to influence them in the performance of their duties. Members must on all occasions avoid the appearance of such behaviour

Says it all.....

Anonymous said...

Lickspittle comes to mind!!

Ken Haylock said...

Anonymous, his days are only numbered if somebody is prepared to hold him to account. Or indeed hold anybody to account. And if the whole corrupt stinking edifice is in fact unaccountable and/or apathetic enough that it cannot do that, finally an outside body must come in and start wielding the baseball bat of integrity hither and thon...