Sabotage claim over £200m leisure plans
THE Labour opposition in Carmarthenshire said it was very difficult to examine a £200 million project due to a “climate of secrecy” – but was accused of sabotaging rather than scrutinising it.
Councillors from different parties again exchanged sharp words over the Wellness and Life Science Village one of 11 city deal projects for the region – which is planned for Llanelli.
The council cut its ties last December with a private sector partner – and its partner Swansea University – for the wellness village project.
Opposition leader, councillor Rob James, presented a motion at full council which called on the authority to endorse two of four recent reviews of the city deal, to accept their recommendations, support the webcasting of city deal committee meetings, and support legally-binding changes to the agreement underpinning the city deal in order to implement necessary changes.
Mr James said Labour councillors attempting to scrutinise the wellness village and city deal in recent months had been mocked, ridiculed and “even received threats”.
He said the two reviews mentioned in his motion had “completely vindicated” their actions, but that little had been said “in this chamber”.
Mr James said Labour wanted to ensure that public finances were safeguarded, given the council’s £400 million debt portfolio, and ascertain what private sector partners which invested in the wellness village would get from it, given the private sector element of the project was nearly £130 million.
He also said regaining public confidence was “essential” and that lessons should be learned in order to move on.
Leader of the Plaid-Independent coalition Emlyn Dole said he would not respond to Labour’s “empty accusations” as the answers were in the two reviews which said the council had acted correctly.
Mr Dole said his Labour opponent would know that the recommendations of the other two reviews were “the immediate priority” of the city deal’s ruling body – the joint committee – because he had attended its latest meeting.
Mr Dole introduced an amended motion – namely that the council recommended that the city deal joint committee accepted and considered all the recommendations made by all four reviews; ensured the webcasting of joint committee and joint scrutiny committee meetings, where such facilities were available; and supported legally-binding changes to the joint committee agreement to implement the necessary changes.
Plaid member Alun Lenny said it was right and proper for the opposition to scrutinise the wellness village and any other matter, but added: “There is a difference between scrutiny and sabotage.
“The Labour group leader speaks of rocking public confidence, yet he and his group members have constantly and vehemently taken every opportunity to criticise and put in place obstacles in front of this hugely important project, which will create almost 2,000 jobs.
“If the wellness project does not happen, those who have rocked public confidence will have to explain to the people of Llanelli and Carmarthenshire in general their part in creating an atmosphere of distrust for base political reasons.”
Plaid colleague, councillor Darren Price, said the governance arrangements of the city deal were very complex, but that all four participating councils had agreed to them, including Labour-run ones.
Mr Price said he had hoped that the £1.3 billion city deal would have ushered in a “new mature form of politics”, given the different political parties involved in it.
“I am very disappointed – that has not panned out in practice,” he said.
Mr Dole closed the debate by reiterating that the administration planned to deliver all elements of the wellness village on time – and his amendment was then passed unanimously.
An artist’s impression of the £200 million Wellness and Life Science Village at Delta Lakes, Llanelli.