LEADERS in Carmarthenshire say it is time for negativity surrounding the Llanelli Wellness and Life Science Village to end.
Two reports looking into the way £200m project was procured said the authority followed due legal process and showed good governance, with no liabilities incurred following the termination of a collaboration agreement with two development partners – Swansea University and Sterling Health Security Holdings.
Council leader Emlyn Dole told a meeting of the executive board that the conclusions of Acuity Legal and the Wales Audit Office (WAO), which penned the reports, were not unexpected.
“There has been no misuse of, or risk to, public funds,” said Cllr Dole.
The reports, he said, were “a clean bill of health” for the council, which is leading the development of the Llanelli Wellness and Life Science Village.
The village at Delta Lakes has planning permission and will comprise a new leisure centre, health and research facilities, care home, hotel and outdoor leisure space, among other things.
It is one of 11 City Deal projects for the Swansea Bay City Region and is expected to create nealy 1,900 jobs.
The council ended the collaboration agreement in December last year after Swansea University’s suspension of four employees.
It emerged that the suspensions could impact on the Llanelli Wellness and Life Science Village, prompting council chiefs to order the review by Acuity Legal and request further oversight from the WAO.
The review by Acuity Legal, which had been appointed last August by the council to provide legal and business expertise relating to the project – but not on procurement – said the council had complied with procurement law.
“The council has followed a robust process, which demonstrates many facets of good governance and management of risk,” said the Acuity Legal report.
The WAO concurred, adding that the authority had “effectively managed risk to protect public money”.
The council is now looking at alternative ways of delivering the Llanelli Wellness and Life Science Village – and it can work with the university or Sterling Health on the project in the future.
However, reviews of the City Deal by the UK and Welsh Governments are still ongoing.
Welcoming the Acuity Legal and WAO reports, Councillor Glynog Davies, said: “There is still a great deal of negativity regarding this project.
“It is so, so important. It offers so much to the people of Carmarthenshire, it will hopefully create jobs.
“So why this negativity all the time? I very much hope now that we can move on.”
Councillor Cefin Campbell said the university suspensions had “shed a dark cloud” over the project but it was time to look ahead.
The university is investigating the suspensions – now involving five employees – and has made a formal criminal complaint as part of its investigation.
Cllr Dole said the council still intended to deliver phase one of the village in 2021, as planned, and “was open to looking at all options” to ensure delivery.
The Plaid Cymru council leader said that just over £1m had been “commissioned” thus far to take the project forward but that only £481,000 had actually been spent.
Councillor Peter Hughes Griffiths urged all concerned to rally around the project.
“Please give us the opportunity to do this,” he said. “It is the best thing that can happen to Carmarthenshire over the next few years.”