Monday 17 December 2018

Llanelli City Deal Swamped ?

City Deals are a UK government project to stimulate economic growth by allowing local government and local businesses to invest in city based projects. They are part of a policy produced by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition in Westminster and were designed as agreements between the UK Government and UK Cities. The UK Government issues a large grant and permission to borrow a much larger sum of money. Private companies are to match fund the investment.
The problem for Wales is that we have no large cities by European Standards. It is true that sizeable cities appear to generate much of the economic growth in Western Economies. So areas without big city hubs have, in their City Deal type schemes, been encouraged to pretend that they are big cities or large, populous regions equivalent to cities, and embrace these deals on the same sort of terms, presumably expecting the same promised benefit.
How has this gone so sour in Llanelli? What went wrong when our small, post industrial town was joined up with the Swansea Bay City Deal by Carmarthenshire County Council in the hope of being mistaken for a part of a vibrant and growing City?
Delta Lakes - before development

Proposed Wellness project - what might have been

These deals were offered  by the UK  government in “partnership” with local government and in our area are run by the County Councils of Neath Port Talbot, Swansea, Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire under the overall leadership of our Carmarthenshire Chief Executive, Mark James.
In Llanelli the Delta Lakes Wellness Centre proposal, already once rejected at Welsh Government Level, was resurrected to take advantage of this “free” money.
However, something has gone wrong. Perhaps the County Councillors should have been suspicious about the lack of a business plan when they were asked to approve the whole plan. My only claim to fame is that I was the only councillor to vote against it. Captivated by the promise of jobs, my colleagues were seduced into supporting a project with little evidence that it could deliver anything.
I recall former Council leader, Meryl Gravell in a full council meeting ,confidently explaining that the wealthy people on the new coastal housing estates close to the Project site would use the fitness and private medical facilities ,while poorer people from South Llanelli would have jobs in cleaning, maintenance, security and social care.
This was never submitted as a business case. The actual business case document has only recently emerged but has not been seen by anyone except the Plaid Cymru led Council Executive Board and the senior council officers. The author of the document has been suspended by Swansea University. How much of a fairy story it is we should soon find out.
Later Mark James would remark that a drug company was interested in the site as the nearby stable population was ideal for testing new drugs. Again, no actual evidence put forward. The promised new jobs rose from “up to 400” to "over 2000" , again without detail or explanation. Maybe the business case, when released after the investigations, will reveal all, or perhaps nothing..
The local Health Boards and Universities were “on Board” but not in any position to help fund the expensive project. The “private partner” turned out to be a company in debt and  apparently without access to the millions needed to match fund the deal.
The problem now is that the project is on hold due to concerns about the viability and propriety of the deal. The County Council are now reassuring us that they can deliver the project in other ways. The question is whether this ever was a good deal at all? Hopefully the truth will out as external investigations now underway reveal what was really going on?

My experience of the Public Sector , in both County Council and in the Welsh NHS, is that these questionable  financial plans are accepted because there are no serious adverse consequences when disasters happen. Many mishaps are just covered up. A leading manager might move on, a chair may resign but no one faces court or serious professional injury. Be a whistle blower as I was in the NHS and your career is trashed. I've seen whistle blowers in the Council suffer the same fate.

Our politicians moan about austerity but  turn a blind eye to massive misappropriation and misuse of public money in institutions supposedly under the control of the Welsh Government. It has to stop.

Siân Caiach


  1. Absolutely agree, such cavalier use of public funds is inexcusable, expecially when vital services are so cash-starved they can barely function.

  2. Yes i am totally agreed with this article and i just want say that this article is very nice and very informative article.I will make sure to be reading your blog more. You made a good point but I can't help but wonder, what about the other side? !!!!!!THANKS!!!!!! industrial work platform

  3. In answer: The other side, the County Council is insisting that they will find new funding for the project and that it is so vital for the area, that in the words of Council Leader, Emlyn Dole, "It is too important a project not to succeed". He also states that "I have not had any hint that there might be a problem...That's what I'm hoping will be true.
    Like the rest of us, Cllr Dole will wait for the result of the investigations to find out what has been going on, and if the business case really isn't a viable one then even finding finance at the low interest rates promised, may be difficult. The Council has already spent a lot of money and should think hard before spending more.


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