Sunday 16 August 2015

Selling off Public Property - the plan to impoverish us all.

Selling off the family silver is generally thought of as the last desperate and irrevocable financial gambit of a once prosperous enterprise. Now, I suspect, many of the Local Authorities in Wales, without consultation or explanation, are selling off as much public land, buildings and other assets as they can get away with. Easy money with a probable disturbing political motive.

In right-wing policy councils such as Carmarthenshire, there is doubtless a sinister motive. The Tory ambition is one of "Smaller Government", i.e. strip public services that do not benefit the wealthy as thoroughly as possible and sell it to the " public" as a necessary step.

The definition of Public here is not what you may think,
Is it the first to respond to advertising which does not seem to be very public, or the highest "public bidder in a secret auction that few are invited to. The ambitiously most open and transparent council in Wales is often unclear on the issue on how buyers are found,who decides on what to sell and may not mention the prices under commercial sensitivity.

 The damage will be permanent this time, as no chance will be left to rebuild and expand local government and services when assets are sold off a rock bottom prices to become private property that future councils will most likely be largely unable to buy back. If the economy is recovering, why no caution in selling off assets which could be used to good effect in future, more prosperous times?

A privatisation which seems to be permanent, political and swings the balance of control in the future. Our Councillors are selling off public assets, property of the people, in order to destroy any options for rebuilding services and using these public assets for the public good.

"How Sad!" they cry, "that we must sell off our land and buildings for so little!" But these sales are often sweetened with promises of facilitating grants and planning permission, so the public loses even more. "There is no money and we must strip every asset in order to fund our plans" they weep. But look carefully at who benefits from these sales and those tears begin to take on a very crocodilian appearance.

If we are in a long depression economically, should we be selling off our family silver as a first and not last desperate action? Should we sell it off at all? Should not what is disposed of be discussed seriously, with full information and in public rather than secretly, shadily? And how about sales to questionable organisations and individuals? Surely the only advantage of secret negotiations and sales is that the senior Councillors can, in effect, chose the buyers and vet them. Recent press stories suggests the vetting, if any, is far from strictly  in the public interest.

Times of economic unrest call for careful deliberation, caution, and defensive decisions. Yet time and time again Carmarthenshire County Council not only puts all their eggs in one basket, they proceed to hurl the basket down sheer cliff faces of nonsensical fiscal planning, each time hoping that at the base of the cliff they will magically find a basket of golden goose eggs and not what we are usually left with: a broken, sloppy mess.

We are seeing a "Fire Sale" of public assets. Often the details are obscured under a "commercial confidentiality" excuse or that if the buyers were aware of the prices paid they would pay even less. When their mistakes lead to public services being eviscerated, there is no excuse for this kind of cowardly backroom dealing. Some are obscured by being just hidden and only forensic examination of accounts can find their shadows. By the time the public or even backbench councillors like myself hear about it, the deal is often done, We rely on leaks and tip-offs rather than our own Public Authority to find out what is actually going on, which is increasingly difficult when those who dare to speak out of turn suddenly find that their work environment has turned incredibly hostile in what our legal advisers would like us to assure you is a total coincidence.*

Carmarthenshire has the declared ambition to be the most open and transparent council in Wales. A wonderful ambition but currently a sick joke. Unless, of course, the other Welsh Councils are even worse!

Councillor Sian Caiach

*I cannot stress enough on this blog that the CCC have never and would never unjustly persecute any whistle blowers, detractors or critics of their work. Carmerthenshire County Council has never done anything wrong, even and perhaps especially in those cases where third party government investigators have found that they have done something wrong. The Council Leaders, both Executive Councillors and Chief Officer, are lovely, professional people who treat their colleagues in only the most polite manner at all times, are not at all petty or cliquish, and would never stalk the blogs of their critics looking for the tiniest hint of insult in order to make overblown legal cases in an attempt to silence  the irritating citizen journalists,



  1. Well said! (Starred comment) my whistleblowing experience exactly (I don't think so). While our public bodies, Gov, unions, PSOW and other watchdogs refuse to accept disclosures, from whistleblowers as legitimate, our public bodies will continue to disregard the public interest with impunity. By coercing employees into acting against the public interest bodies like the CCC will continue to protect their protect their own officers from being held accountable. Surely, in a democracy where the people pay through the public purse to be represented and their interests be protected, justice should be on the side of the wronged & not on the side of well paid public servants who have acted against the public interest? A lot of our representatives and well paid leaders seem to regard their positions as proof of their own self importance and superiority over lesser beings (the public); they fail to accept they are there to protect the public interest, not just to gratify their own self interest and swell their own coffers.

  2. Interestingly, while Pembrokeshire County Council are selling off buildings that authority is well-aware that simply flooding the market will not only reduce its take but also depress the local property market and force out the very type of small to medium sized enterprises that should be bidding for and buying excess properties in order to aid their expansion and organic growth.
    Carmarthenshire, as you say, doesn't give a stuff as long as buildings are off their books and on someone else's. That course of action will inevitably favour speculative developers who will batten on to the Council's desperation to acquire properties on the cheap and then milk the council for ever more public money (grants, for example) to support their projects.
    Truly, in Carmarthenshire, if you have money and a dim EBM with a bee in their bonnet about making a mark on your side, you have a licence to print money,


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