Sab­o­tage claim over £200m leisure plans

Coun­cil­lors clash

Llanelli Star - - FRONT PAGE - Richard Youle 01792 545553 [email protected]­di­awales.co.uk

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.

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