Academic suspensions trigger inquiry into Swansea City Deal
An INDEPENDENT review of the £1.3bn City Deal for the Swansea Bay City Region has been confirmed by both the Welsh and UK governments.
The joint announcement comes after it was confirmed earlier this week that sign-off on the detailed business plan for the proposed £200m Life Sciences and Wellbeing City Deal project in Llanelli was being put on hold while an independent review is undertaken.
Carmarthenshire County Council said it had launched its review following the suspension of a number of senior academics at Swansea University.
The City Deal has yet to see any of its 11 projects formally signed off in terms of the UK and Welsh governments releasing funding. They will firstly need to see that projects have secured committed match-funding from the private sector, before making an evaluation on whether to release City Deal monies.
Both governments, along with the region’s four local authorities through their borrowing powers, have in principle committed to fund the City Deal, which was confirmed 18 months ago.
In their joint statement, the Welsh and UK governments said a “rapid independent review” would be carried out into the City Deal.
The review will include a stocktake on progress to date, and the statement said it would provide
assurance that all elements of the deal will deliver the programme’s full economic benefits.
One of the academics suspended by Swansea University was Professor Marc Clement, dean of its school of management.
Prof Clement is credited as being the architect of the ambitious Life Sciences and Wellbeing Village scheme, which is looking to secure £40m from the City Deal.
The project is being driven by Carmarthenshire County Council, under its chief executive Mark James, in partnership with Hywel Dda and Abertawe Bro Morgannwg university TOP-FLIGHT stocks in London were boosted by rising oil prices in trading yesterday, but observers said a recovery could not make up for the “dreadful” week on the markets.
The FTSE 100 was up 74 points, or 1.1%, at 6,778.11, regaining only some of what it lost on Thursday when £56bn was wiped amid fears the arrest of a senior Huawei official in Canada could reignite tension between the US and China.
The FTSE 100 was also given a boost by oil prices after an Opec meeting in Vienna concluded with a plan to cut production by 1.2 million barrels a day. A barrel of Brent crude oil was trading 4.5% higher at 62.90 US dollars.
Meanwhile, Brexit fears continued to weigh on the pound, which was down 0.44% at 1.272 US dollars.
In corporate news, shares in rocketed as the investment firm debuted on the stock exchange. The group had initially set a price of 160p per share, but the stock opened at 162p and gained 58p to close at 220p. shares rose 35p to 3,356p after the group upgraded its profit forecast after repeatedly warning of a profits fall next year.
(ABF) warned that trading at the budget retail chain in the run-up to Christmas has been “challenging”. Shares closed 108p down at 2,242p. But brought positive retail news as it said sales were likely to come in 13% higher in the first half. Shares were 130p higher at 3,125p. The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were up 26.6p to 628p, up 17.8p to 481.6p, up 54.5p to 1,475p and up 51.4p to 1,607.8p.
The biggest fallers were down 108p to 2,242p, down 13p to 669p, down 115p to 6,455p, down 11p to 651.8p. and health boards and Swansea University.
The Wales Office and Welsh Government said: “Eighteen months on from the signing of the Swansea Bay City Deal, good progress has been made on developing a range of projects within the overall programme.
“The UK and Welsh governments, alongside the Deal Partnership, have now decided to undertake a rapid independent review which will underpin the next stage of delivery.
“The review will include a stocktake on progress to date and provide partners with the assurance that all elements of the deal will deliver the [email protected]line.co.uk full economic benefits of this ambitious programme.
“The review’s recommendations will inform future decisions on the release of government funding, as well as provide the greatest confidence to potential private investors across the Deal as a whole.
“The review will cover due diligence and governance in relation to all elements of the Deal and its implementation. It will ensure that oversight and compliance at both programme and project level are robust, and make recommendations, as appropriate, where this could be strengthened in the future.
“All partners remain committed the success of the deal and it has been agreed that work on individual projects will continue in parallel with the review.”
A Swansea Bay City Region spokesperson said: “As outlined by the UK Government and Welsh Government, considerable progress has been made since the signing of the Swansea Bay City Deal.
“We will now work as closely as possible alongside both governments on the independent review, with all partners remaining fiercely committed to delivering this unprecedented programme of investment.
“Work will continue on all individual projects while the review is ongoing so that residents and businesses can benefit as soon as possible.”
Carmarthenshire Council issued a statement on Wednesday saying that it “needed further reassurance” in relation to the Wellbeing Village project, which promises to create 2,000 jobs, and that there is a “need to show that the due legal process has been followed and public funds have been fully protected”.
Council leader Emlyn Dole said the assurances were needed “given the ongoing internal investigation at Swansea University”.
As well as Prof Clement, three other academics have been suspended. One is the Vice-Chancellor Professor Richard B Davies. The other two have not been named.
Prof Clement has vehemently denied any wrongdoing.
The £1.3bn City Deal amount includes finance from the private sector leveraged by projects.
> Artist’s impression of the Wellness Hub, part of the Life Sciences and Wellbeing Village scheme in Llanelli