Thursday, 29 April 2021

The Grillo site, Cwm Environmental, and a short rant

The old Grillo zinc oxide site in Burry Port came up again at Monday's Executive Board meeting. It was not, as you may think, to clear away the heavy metals and toxic chemicals which pervade the ground but to sell the plot to a developer to build around 320 homes. Being the current owners of the site, and the body which passed planning permission for itself, one may think they had a duty to clear it up.
The main purpose of the sale is not to create a vision of the French Riviera in Burry Port but to recoup the £1.5m they've blown on the toxic site.
Plaid Cllr Dai Jenkins, trotting out the officer's report in the usual parrot fashion, made no mention of the dangers lurking beneath the land, nor the cost of remediation, estimated between £5m and £10m, nor, for that matter, the predicted rising sea levels, and the surrounding protected waters.

One can only hope that all this pertinent information is somewhere in the small print.

The Grillo site has an interesting and rather controversial history since it's industrial days, and, in recent years featured a shell company, a lot of taxpayers' money, backroom deals a dodgy lord and, naturally, former CEO Mark James....see previous blog post from August 2020, Grillo site - the toxic saga 


Also in the news this week is the extensive fire at the council's recycling plant at Nantycaws, Carmarthen. Fortunately no one was hurt and an investigation as to the cause is underway. I say council, but as readers will recall it is managed by Cwm Environmental Ltd, an arms-length company wholly owned by the council. 

Cwm run all three main recycling plants in the county. One, in Llangadog, was privately owned and was closed a couple of years ago. Much to the distress of locals but, as it wasn't run by Cwm, it was of no interest to the council whatsoever.

Cwm Environmental has something of a chequered past itself. A search of this blog will show a reluctance to answer FOI requests, despite being 100% council owned, some massive loans to buy extra little bits of land (the most recent being £800k in February 2020), mismanagement and a propensity to employ people on less than favourable terms, exploiting labourers from eastern Europe.

The council changed the structure in 2018 to a Teckal company which means, basically that they are supposed to have more control over the management and indeed, several senior officers are on the board. 

For those with longer memories former deputy chief executive Dave 'for f***'s sake don't go to the police' Gilbert OBE is also a director, and a director of Cartrefi Croeso, the council's 'wholly owned' housing company. How cosy. 
Incidentally, Delta Wellbeing, the council's call centre company are running eight weeks late submitting their accounts to  Companies House.

However, another strange phenomenon has been Cwm Environmental's reluctance, ie the council's reluctance, to agree a Trade Union Recognition Agreement, for Unison, Unite and GMB at the plant. 
The Carmarthen branch of Unison has concluded that it is the council blocking the agreement, preferring to keep the status quo of poorer pay and conditions, significantly poorer pay and conditions than for those directly employed by the local authority.


Meanwhile, the great and good of Plaid Cymru and Labour are busying themselves, ahead of next week's election of course, attacking Westminster sleaze, dishonesty, corruption etc, and quite right too. Sadly they're choosing to ignore the dishonesty and corruption on their own doorstep. 

Putting the Wellness scandal aside for one moment, it's particularly galling, given that Plaid Cymru had the chance to put things right when they acquired a semblance of power in County Hall in 2015, then chose to jump into bed with Meryl and Mark instead. They even preserved Mark James' slush fund. 

Plaid MP Liz Savile-Roberts was questioning Boris Johnson's integrity in the Commons yesterday, quoting the Nolan Principles and asking what happens when a Prime Minister goes rogue, good questions but ones that should have been asked by her Plaid colleagues about the former chief executive of Carmarthenshire. The only one who did try was the former Chair of the Swansea Bay Health Board over James' dishonest and catastrophic 'leadership' of the City Deal.

What 'happened' in Carmarthenshire was that the taxpayers were robbed, democracy was trashed and peoples lives destroyed. Who is going to put that right? I'm still waiting. One can understand why, sometimes, people take the law into their own hands.

As for the Wellness scandal, if an inquiry can be called to investigate the Prime Minister and his refurbishments, let alone the 'dodgy contracts', then surely a council chief executive who accepted £mms in bribes from a developer, lying to his employers and the taxpayer in the process, (and not for the first time), warrants a very public inquiry. 
It would also be very interesting to know when exactly Emlyn Dole, Linda Rees Jones and Wendy Walters realise there was something seriously wrong? They're either idiots, liars or crooks. Or all three.

The truth will out.


Anonymous said...

Saw the news about the fire at Nant y Caws site.
Had a trip to Wernddu yesterday and was amazed at the vast amount of timber and recyclables piled up against the buildings.
Makes one think that another fire is in the making.

Anonymous said...

I see the recent retired Chief Constable of Dyfed Powys police is now in charge of the police force on the British Virgin Island that well know tax heaven

He said he is going to fight organised crime which is rampunt there

Perhaps policing Carmarthenshire council was a good practice run for him lets hope he has better luck in the caribbean in getting convictions

Anonymous said...

The level of Council tax has become an election issue with the citizen advice siting the tax as the biggest debt that people who seek their help have over and above other bills

When you see how Carmarthenshire Council senior officers and Councillors behave it is obscene to think how people struggle to pay and then see it wasted on such behaviour and poor service - they should be ashamed of themselves

Anonymous said...

Dave "I have worked in more Councils than anyone else" Gilbert was always described as one that did not suffer fools gladly - thats such a title for a fool himself

He must avoid mirrors at all costs

Anonymous said...

Having re-read the links in this blog has reminded me how badly run Carmarthenshire was / is

The new City deal regional team is in place with very high salaries and on watching their meetings is a masterclass of Prince 2 project managing speak - this all to satisfy the funders - very little is dicussed about the merits of the projects - their progress and ultimate impact and job creation

In the lesser known City deal region scrutiny cttee run by Neath Port Talbot Council there are rumblings of lack of transparency and written report

And who knew that bridge was coming !

caebrwyn said...

Anon 12:37

You are spot on. I've also watched the City Deal meetings and masterclass in management speak is right - or, more accurately, 'complete b******s'.

The last minutes of the infrequently held Joint Scrutiny meeting do indeed show growing concerns...

"The Chair stressed Members’ disappointment that no written documentation had been received to accompany the Pentre Awel [Wellness Village] project update. Further, in consideration of the project being local and not regional, it falls outside the scope of the committee.....
The Chair emphasised the overall concern about the lack of written updates being provided to the committee.."

The committee also asked about the wealth the deal was supposed to create (GVA) and number and type of jobs it would provide. The answer, again is pure management speak;

"It was advised that reporting of actual output deliverables would be a key focus moving forward, and the templates and mechanism to report them are currently being drafted."

In other words, we haven't got a clue.

Golden bridges and saunas-in-the-swamp...your money, safe in their hands!